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The Taliban ban women from working for domestic and foreign NGOs

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Kabul, Afghanistan — The Taliban government on Saturday ordered all foreign and domestic non-governmental groups in Afghanistan to suspend the hiring of women, allegedly because some employees did not wear the Islamic headscarf properly. They also separately banned women from attending religious classes in mosques in the capital Kabul.

The bans are the latest restrictive moves by Afghanistan’s new leadership against women’s rights and freedoms, just days after the Taliban banned female students from attending universities in the country.

Afghan women have since demonstrated in major cities against the ban – a rare sign of nationwide protest since the Taliban took power last year. The decision also sparked international outrage.

The NGO’s order came in a letter from Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif, who said any organization that did not comply with the order would have its license to operate in Afghanistan revoked. Ministry spokesman Abdul Rahman Habib confirmed the contents of the letter to The Associated Press.

The ministry said it had received “serious complaints” about female staff working for NGOs not wearing the “right” headscarf or hijab. It was not immediately clear whether the order applied to all women or just Afghan women working for NGOs.

More details were not immediately available as the Taliban’s latest move could be a stepping stone to a blanket ban on Afghan women leaving the home.

“This is a heartbreaking announcement. Aren’t we human beings? Why are they treating us with this cruelty?”

The 25-year-old, who works at Y-Peer Afghanistan and lives in Kabul, said her job was important because she served her country and was the only breadwinner for her family. Will those responsible support us after this announcement? If not, then why are they snatching meals from our mouths? she asked.

Another NGO worker, a 24-year-old from Jalalabad working for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was “the worst time of my life”.

“The work gives me more than a life, it’s a representation of all the effort I’ve put in,” she said, declining to be named, fearing for her own safety.

The United Nations condemned the NGO order and said it would seek to meet with Taliban leaders for clarification.

“Depriving women of the agency to choose their own destiny, depriving them of power and systematically excluding them from all aspects of public and political life is setting the country back, undermining efforts for any meaningful peace or stability in the country,” said a UN statement.

In a separate decree, a spokesman for the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, Fazil Mohammad Hussaini, said on Saturday evening that “adult girls” are not allowed to attend Islamic classes in mosques in Kabul, although that they can still attend autonomous madrassas or religious schools. .

He gave no further details and did not specify the ages affected by the ban or how it would be enforced. Nor has it been explained why the measure only applies to mosques in Kabul.

Earlier on Saturday, Taliban security forces used a water cannon to disperse women protesting a ban on university education for women in the western city of Herat, witnesses said eyepieces.

Witnesses said around two dozen women were heading to the governor’s house in Herat province on Saturday to protest the ban – many chanting: ‘Education is our right’ – when they were pushed back by the forces. security guards who fired water cannons.

Video shared with the AP shows the women screaming and hiding in a side street to escape the water cannon. They then resume their protest, with chants of “Disgraceful!”

One of the protest organizers, Maryam, said between 100 and 150 women took part in the protest, moving in small groups from different parts of the city to a central meeting point. She did not give her last name for fear of reprisals.

“There was security in every street, every square, armored vehicles and armed men,” she said. “When we started our demonstration, in Tariqi Park, the Taliban took tree branches and beat us. But we continued our protest. They have reinforced their security presence. Around 11 a.m., they took out the water cannon.

A spokesman for the province’s governor, Hamidullah Mutawakil, said there were only four to five protesters.

“They didn’t have an agenda, they just came here to make a movie,” he said, without mentioning violence against women or the use of water cannons.

There was widespread international condemnation of the university ban, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as warnings from the United States. States and the G-7 group of major industrial nations which policy will have consequences for the Taliban.

A Taliban government official, Higher Education Minister Nida Mohammad Nadim, spoke about the ban for the first time on Thursday in an interview with Afghan state television.

He said the ban was necessary to prevent gender mixing at universities and because he believes some subjects taught violate principles of Islam. He also added the ban which would be in place until further notice.

Although it initially promised a more moderate rule respecting the rights of women and minorities, the Taliban has largely implemented its interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, since taking power in August 2021.

They banned girls from middle school and high school — and now universities — and also barred women from most fields of employment. Women were also ordered to wear head-to-toe clothing in public and banned from parks and gymnasiums.

Afghan society, while largely traditional, has increasingly embraced the education of girls and women over the past two decades of a US-backed government.

In the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, dozens of Afghan refugee students demonstrated on Saturday against the ban on female higher education in their home country and demanded the immediate reopening of campuses for students. women.

One of them, Bibi Haseena, read a poem describing the plight of Afghan girls in search of education. She said she was unhappy to have graduated outside her country when hundreds of thousands of her Afghan sisters were denied an education.

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