UN suspends some programs in Afghanistan after Taliban bans women from working

The UN announced on Wednesday that it had suspended some “urgent” activities in Afghanistan in protest at the Taliban edict banning women from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These organizations are heavily involved in delivering food and medicine to the general public. number of displaced, impoverished and oppressed people in Afghanistan.

“Barring women from humanitarian work has immediate deadly consequences for all Afghans. Already, some urgent programs have had to stop temporarily due to the lack of female staff,” said a joint statement from several UN agencies and outside aid groups on Wednesday.

The UN stressed that humanitarian operations in Afghanistan rely on women as “teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors and heads of organizations”.

“They have access to populations that their male colleagues cannot and are essential to safeguarding the communities we serve. They save lives. Their professional expertise is essential. Their participation in delivering aid is non-negotiable and must continue,” the statement said.

“We will endeavor to continue vital and urgent activities unless impeded while we better assess the scope, parameters and implications of this directive for the people we serve. But we anticipate that many activities will have to be halted as we cannot provide principled humanitarian assistance without women aid workers,” the UN and affiliated agencies said.

United Nations agencies signing the statement included UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees and Human Rights. Other signatories included Save the Children, Mercy Corps and CARE International.

Save the Children was one of five humanitarian agencies that announcement he would suspend operations in Afghanistan on Sunday because they could not function without female personnel.

On Thursday, the foreign ministries of a dozen countries joined the US State Department and the European Union in a joint statement demanding that the Taliban rescind their “reckless and dangerous order banning female employees of national and international non-governmental organizations”.

As with the joint UN statement, the United Foreign Ministers said women are “absolutely at the heart of humanitarian operations and basic needs”.

“NGOs will not be able to reach the most vulnerable people in the country to provide them with food, medicine, wintering and other materials and services they need to live,” the statement warns. .

“The Taliban continue to demonstrate their disregard for the rights, freedoms and well-being of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, and their disinterest in normal relations with the international community,” the statement said.

Signatories to Thursday’s statement, including the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, said they were in “close contact” with the United Nations and “international donors”.

The Taliban are obviously counting on winning this global stalemate because, for all their demanding rhetoric, the UN and Western nations will not cut off humanitarian aid to the suffering Afghan people – especially during the notoriously harsh winter season of the Afghanistan, which the joint UN statement highlighted. point of mention.

The UN is gambling on very high odds that the Taliban will back down because they feel a residual sense of human compassion for the Afghan people. It seems much more likely that the UN will back down and find a way to keep aid operations without employees, or perhaps offer the Taliban incentives to back down from their misogynistic policies.

The Taliban gave themselves a way out by claiming they only banned women first from amusement parks, then universities, and now NGO jobs because they displayed strict Islamic dress codes and disobeyed Taliban orders not to fraternize with men. The bans on women were vaguely described by Taliban officials as temporary pending improvements, so the junta can lift the bans at any time without embarrassment claiming they were effective, and women learned their place.

the Associated press (AP) spoke to Afghan women on Thursday who insisted they meticulously obeyed Taliban rules of dress and behavior — even when they came home from school or work — because they knew that Taliban thugs followed them to monitor their compliance.

These women therefore accused the Taliban of lying about women’s misbehavior to justify their bans and suspected that the bans could be lifted early in the new year, once Afghanistan’s extremist leaders get the reward they seek. .

Several AP correspondents seemed convinced that the bans on women were theatrical, staged mostly in big cities for the benefit of foreign observers while women were in fact still allowed to work in rural areas.

“They have been targeting women from the start. Why do they make enemies of women? Don’t they have wives, sisters and mothers? a banned NGO worker complained.

“The women we help don’t have computers, they don’t have Zoom. It’s hard to do this job without being one-on-one. But hopefully we can resume our work in the coming weeks,” she said.

Some women told the AP that they would continue to try to provide humanitarian aid even though they could no longer officially work for NGOs. They worried about the drying up of international donations as the civilized world recoiled from the brutality of the Taliban.

the UK Guardian Thursday underscored the weakest of the cracks appearing in the Taliban hierarchy, as at least two prominent members of the extremist organization publicly expressed lukewarm opposition to the banning of women from school and work.

“The Taliban know that their government is not recognized by the world. By restricting women, they want to demonstrate false strength and attract the attention of the world. Unfortunately, the main victims of this policy are women,” said Kabul-based women’s rights activist Palwasha Hamdard. Guardian.


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