UN official meets with Taliban Deputy PM over ban on women’s NGOs
Kabul, Afghanistan — A senior UN official in Afghanistan met with the deputy prime minister of the Taliban-led government on Sunday to discuss the ban on women working for non-governmental groups announced by Afghan authorities in a series of moves roll back women’s rights.
The Taliban government’s decision to ban women from NGO work prompted major international aid agencies to suspend operations in the country. The ban has raised fears that people will be deprived of food, education, healthcare and other essential services, as more than half of the Afghan population is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
Aid agencies have warned that the ban will have catastrophic consequences and that “hundreds and thousands” of Afghans will die because of the Taliban’s decision.
The deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Potzel Markus, met Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi in the capital Kabul to discuss the ban, as well as other measures, including banning women from access universities.
“Barring women from working in non-governmental organizations, preventing girls and women from accessing education and training, harms millions of people in Afghanistan and prevents the delivery of vital aid to men , Afghan women and children,” the UN mission said.
Potzel is the latest UN official to meet with Taliban leaders amid growing international concern about the restriction of women’s freedoms in Afghanistan.
Last Monday, the acting head of the UN mission Ramiz Alakbarov met with the Minister of Economy Qari Din Mohammed Hanif.
Hanif issued the NGO ban on December 24, allegedly because women did not wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, properly. He said any organization that fails to comply with the order will have their license revoked.
Aid agencies provided essential services and support in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
The Taliban takeover in 2021, as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal after 20 years of war, sent the Afghan economy into a tailspin and transformed the country, plunging millions of people in poverty and hunger. Foreign aid stopped almost overnight.
Sanctions against Taliban leaders, including halting bank transfers and freezing billions of Afghanistan’s foreign assets, have already restricted access to global institutions. Funds from aid agencies helped sustain the country’s aid-dependent economy before the Taliban takeover.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths is due to visit Afghanistan to discuss the ban.
Potzel’s meeting with Hanafi came as a UN survey showed that a third of women-led NGOs in Afghanistan were forced to halt 70% of their activities due to the ban and about a third have stopped all their activities.
The UN Women department said 86% of the 151 organizations surveyed have either shut down or are partially functioning.
He also said that the lack of women in aid distribution has had a significant impact on the Afghan population.