UN condemns Taliban over ban on female Afghan workers

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UN officials have condemned a Taliban decision to bar Afghan women from working at the agency.

Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule than during its previous stint in power, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since taking over the country in 2021 as US and Nato forces were pulling out of Afghanistan after two decades of war.

Girls are banned from education beyond the age of 11 or 12. Women are barred from working, studying, travelling without a male companion and going to parks, and they must also cover themselves from head to toe.

Afghan women are already barred from working at national and international non-governmental organisations, disrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid, but the ban did not previously cover working for the UN.

APTOPIX Afghanistan Schools
Tarawat, a 17-year-old girl who has been forced to stop studying, looks out from a window in her room, in Kabul (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the move.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said the latest ban on women was “another gross violation” of their fundamental rights. He said it was against the agency’s charter and urged the Taliban to reverse their decision immediately.

The UN has about 3,900 staff in Afghanistan, including approximately 3,300 Afghans and 600 international personnel, he said. The total includes 600 Afghan women and 200 women from other countries.

The UN political mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is headed by a woman, Roza Otunbayeva, a former president and foreign minister of the Kyrgyz Republic.

She was appointed by the secretary-general in coordination with the UN Security Council. Mr Dujarric said there has been no Taliban action regarding the UN’s senior leadership.

Taliban restrictions in Afghanistan, especially the bans on education and NGO work, have drawn fierce international condemnation.

But the Taliban have shown no signs of backing down, claiming the bans are temporary suspensions in place allegedly because women were not wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, correctly and because gender segregation rules were not being followed.

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