The latest order from the Taliban bans women from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Islamist rulers justifies the move by saying female NGO staff had broken dress codes by not wearing hijabs. The decree comes just days after female students were banned from universities.
The order came in a letter from the Ministry of Economy to both national and international NGOs. It threatened to cancel the license of any organization that did not swiftly comply.
Four major international aid groups have suspended their operations in Afghanistan. Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and CARE say they could not effectively reach people in desperate need without the women in their workforces. The four NGOs have been providing healthcare, education, child protection, and nutrition services and support amid plummeting humanitarian conditions.
The Taliban takeover in August 2021 sent Afghanistan’s economy into a tailspin and transformed the country, driving millions into poverty and hunger. Foreign aid stopped almost overnight. Sanctions on Taliban rulers, a halt on bank transfers and frozen billions in Afghanistan’s currency reserves have already restricted access to global institutions and the outside money that supported the country’s aid-dependent economy before the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that excluding women from schools and NGO work in Afghanistan “can and will lead to catastrophic humanitarian consequences in the short to long term”.
The flurry of rulings from the all-male and religiously driven Taliban government is reminiscent of its rule in the late 1990s when it banned women from education and public spaces and outlawed music, television, and many sports.
The Taliban also banned female students from attending universities across the country. Taliban's minister for higher education Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught in universities violated the principles of Islam.
The ban on female students attending universities triggered demonstrations in several Afghan cities and backlash overseas.
There are some protests, in Kandahar hundreds of male students boycotted their final semester exams at Mirwais Neeka University, and in Herat people chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in solidarity with female students.
It is a time of deep uncertainty in Afghanistan as women are struggling to maintain their basic human rights, their freedom, and their identity.