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Afghanistan: Taliban govt bans women from working in local and foreign NGOs, says female employees not following Islamic dress code

Taliban said that some of the female employees were not following the administration's version of the Islamic dress code for women, hence women employees are not permitted to work until further notice.

On Saturday, 24th December 2022, all domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan were ordered by the Taliban government to forbid the presence of female employees at work. The decision was communicated through a letter from the economy ministry. This step by the Islamic rulers in Afghanistan is another crackdown on women’s freedom in a series of such recent decisions.

According to the letter, which was confirmed by Abdulrahman Habib, a spokesman for the economics ministry, some of the female employees were not following the administration’s version of the Islamic dress code for women, hence women employees are not permitted to work until further notice. According to this order, women can’t work in domestic and international non-governmental organisations from now on.

The order’s potential impact on United Nations organizations, which are heavily represented in Afghanistan and provide assistance in the midst of the country’s humanitarian crisis, was not immediately evident. However, Habib said that the letter referred to organizations under Afghanistan’s coordinating body for humanitarian organizations, known as ACBAR, when questioned if the regulations extended to U.N. agencies as well.

More than 180 national and international NGOs are a part of that organization, which excludes the United Nations. To carry out its humanitarian activities, the United Nations frequently enters into contracts with NGOs registered in Afghanistan. Women employees, according to aid workers, are essential to ensuring that women can obtain help.

The international community has started criticising the move, with Norway saying that they will review the situation and demanded to reverse the decision immediately. “I strongly condemn the ban on female employees of NGOs in Afghanistan. This decision must be reversed immediately. Norway will review the situation with partners and issue an appropriate response,” Norwegian foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt said.

It is notable that Norway funds aid programs in Afghanistan, and hosted talks between Taliban and civil society members earlier this year.

Paul Klouman Bekken, the Charge D’Affaires for Norway, strongly condemned the decision to ban women from NGOs in Afghanistan. “The ban on female employees in NGOs must be reversed immediately. In addition to being a blow to women´s rights, this move will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and hurt the most vulnerable Afghans,” Bekken tweeted.

This order came days after women were banned from attending universities by the Taliban-run government, drawing considerable condemnation from across the world as well as some protests and harsh criticism within Afghanistan.

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