Taliban bars Afghan women from working for U.N., organization says

By and Haq Nawaz Khan

The United Nations said Wednesday that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have banned Afghan women from working for the organization in the country, effective immediately, prompting strong condemnations and raising questions about foreign aid amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. said the ban, which it believes will be actively enforced, is likely to affect the organization’s ability to mitigate the country’s dire humanitarian situation. About two-thirds of Afghans are estimated to rely on lifesaving assistance.

Bilal Karimi, a deputy Taliban spokesman, had no immediate comment, saying he was still gathering information on the issue on Wednesday evening.

“The enforcement of this [ban] will harm the Afghan people, millions of whom are in need of this assistance,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, said in a statement.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that the Taliban rulers’ “attempt to erase women” is “appalling; it’s unacceptable.”

The U.N. had already raised concerns Tuesday over a looming ban on its female staff in the country, saying in a tweet that “female national UN staff have been prevented from reporting to work in Nangarhar province,” and later adding that officials were under the impression that the ban applied nationwide.

But Hanif Nangarhari, a local director of information and culture, said Tuesday that “this issue is not new.”

The U.N. held talks with Taliban representatives Wednesday to gain clarity on the ban.

According to the U.N., the new ban on female Afghan workers is an extension of a directive first announced in December that barred female Afghan employees from working at international organizations. That ban prompted several major international aid groups to halt operations in Afghanistan, saying they couldn’t effectively reach people in need without female staffers, but U.N. agencies initially appeared to be largely unaffected.

Taliban representatives earlier said the December decision was made after “serious complaints” that women working for nongovernmental organizations were not observing conservative Islamic dress. Earlier last year, the Taliban had ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe coverings in public.

Susannah George and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

Taliban bars Afghan women from working for U.N., organization says