The Taliban’s decision to ban female Afghan aid workers has forced the United Nations to instruct its personnel in Afghanistan to stay away from its offices in the country, with only limited and calibrated exceptions made for critical tasks. The UN said the Taliban’s move was an extension of a previous ban, enforced last December, that prohibited Afghan women from working for national and international non-governmental organizations.
The Taliban’s return to power preceded a deepening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, worsening issues that had long plagued the country. After the takeover, the US and its allies froze about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut off international funding – crippling an economy heavily dependent on overseas aid. At least half a dozen major foreign aid groups temporarily suspended their operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s December ban.
The UN condemned the move, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling it “utterly despicable.” The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, is engaging with the Taliban at the highest level to “seek an immediate reversal of the order.” This decision represents an assault against women, the fundamental principles of the UN, and on international law.
The lives of Afghanistan women are at stake. To help improve the situation in Afghanistan, the international community should join forces to put pressure on the Taliban to include women in every aspect of society. This includes actively pushing for women’s employment not only in aid groups but also in government and other organizations. The UN should leverage its influence and engage with the Taliban to ensure that women’s rights are not suppressed. The Taliban’s gender-based discrimination tactics should be deemed unacceptable by the international community. Afghanistan desperately needs global support, especially considering the humanitarian crisis that has ensued after the Taliban takeover.
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