New Delhi: Afghan media reported that the suspension of work of the UN Afghan national staff in Afghanistan had been extended for another 26 days as talks between the UN officials and the ruling Taliban could not produce any results.
Around 4,000 local staff of UN missions in Afghanistan, including women, will continue their work from home. Last week UN officials suspended work for 48 hours in solidarity with the female Afghan UN staff, which is now extended until May 5 of this year.
Situation of Afghan women and girls
The situation in Afghanistan is concerning, especially for the UN women employees who have been banned from working by the Taliban.
Afghan women and girls have also been banned from working for NGOs, except for a few health institutions. Females have been barred from visiting amusement parks, sports clubs and baths.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter that female UN staff members are "essential to carry out our work, including the delivery of lifesaving aid."
Nearly 400 Afghan women who are UN employees have been banned from working by the Taliban. They are working in different missions of the UN in Afghanistan and providing crucial aid to millions.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed grave concern that female national UN staff have been prevented from reporting to work in Nangarhar province." The mission wrote: "We remind de facto authorities that United Nations entities cannot operate and deliver lifesaving assistance without female staff."
Nearly all countries and international organizations have criticized and condemned the move. The ban on working women has attracted much attention on several multilateral platforms.
Observers say that if female employees are not allowed to work for aid, it will be difficult to distribute aid to women and children. It is important to note that this ban on female workers is just one example of the many challenges women in Afghanistan face. Women's rights have been severely curtailed under Taliban rule, and the international community must continue to push for their protection and empowerment.
Taliban on Afghan women and girls
Earlier, Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the ruling Taliban, defended the decision, insisting the ban was in accordance with Islamic guidelines. He told the media.
In December 2022, the Ministry of Economy issued a letter restricting women and girls from working in domestic and NGOs over the non-observance of hijab. The UN had been exempted then.
Mujahid added: "In compliance with the decree of the Islamic Emirate, which seeks to implement sharia law in the country, women should not go to NGOs, just like government institutions that have been working without women for the past one hand half year."
He argued government officials were responsible for the safety and security of all Afghans. Still, they were unable to do this for women working for NGOs because these institutions were not independent and not under government control.
During a briefing at the UN headquarters in New York, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that their female staff in Afghanistan had received "word of an order by the de facto authorities." UN members will meet with Taliban officials in Kabul and "seek some clarity," Dujarric added.
Guterres said that any such ban would be "unacceptable and frankly inconceivable," according to his spokesperson. "Such orders, as we saw today, violate the fundamental rights of women and infringe upon the principle of non-discrimination," Dujarric said.
He added that the UN is currently working to provide humanitarian aid for close to 23 million people, more than half the population in Afghanistan. Women staff are vital for on-the-ground aid operations in the country, particularly in identifying other needy women.
Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, said in a recent speech in Geneva that the Taliban's actions on women may amount "to the crime of gender persecution."
Around 28 million people in Afghanistan need humanitarian aid, of which 23% are women, 54% are children, and 8.3% have severe disabilities.
David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), said in an interview with CNN that six million people in Afghanistan are on the brink of famine due to the lack of money.
No country has recognized the ruling Taliban government even though around fourteen countries' embassies are functioning in Kabul.