Several aid groups are suspending operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban imposed a new ban on women working in non-governmental organisations, potentially disrupting humanitarian assistance to millions during the harsh winter months.
“If we are not allowed to employ women, we are not able to deliver to those in need, said the International Rescue Committee, one of Afghanistan’s largest aid organisations. “Therefore, the IRC is currently suspending our services in Afghanistan.
Women account for 3,000 of the IRC’s 8,000-strong staff in Afghanistan.
Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Care International are among the others that have ceased operations. “Without our female staff, we cannot effectively reach children, women, and men in desperate need in Afghanistan, the three agencies said in a joint statement.
Over the weekend, the Taliban’s minister of economy Din Mohammad Hanif had signed an order barring women from working in national and international NGOs as they were not wearing headscarves and failing to observe other Islamic laws. He warned any organisation that didn’t comply with the order would have its licence revoked.
The move drew condemnation from across the world, including the US. The ban will “disrupt vital and life-saving assistance to millions, US Secretary Antony Blinken said in a tweet. “This decision could be devastating for the Afghan people.”
The US should stop interfering in Afghanistan matters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said on Twitter. The militant group will not allow “anyone to talk rubbish or make threats regarding the decisions of our leaders under the title of humanitarian aid,” he added.
Millions of Afghans relied on NGOs for health and nutrition services, education, child protection, and other life-saving services at a time when the country is reeling from severe poverty. The United Nations warned that 97 per cent of the country’s population is at risk of poverty.
Local Afghans are struggling to survive during the harsh winter months because they lack adequate access to heating, with the majority of them living in temporary shelters in Kabul and elsewhere. The situation worsens the already dire humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban also banned women from attending universities, a move that outraged the international community and local Afghans. Mr Blinken had also criticised that decision, saying it would further set back the Taliban’s efforts to win recognition and support. – Bloomberg