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4 NGOs suspend work in Afghanistan after Taliban bans women

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four major international aid groups suspended operations in Afghanistan on Sunday following a decision by the country’s Taliban leaders to ban women from working for nongovernmental organizations.

Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE said they could not effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without women in their workforce. ‘artwork. The NGO ban was introduced a day earlier, allegedly because women did not wear the Islamic headscarf properly.

The four NGOs provide health, education, child protection and nutrition services and support amid plummeting humanitarian conditions.

“We have respected all cultural norms and we simply cannot work without our dedicated female staff, who are essential for us to access women who are in desperate need of help,” said Neil Turner, head of the Norwegian Council of refugees for Afghanistan. The Associated Press on Sunday. He said the group has 468 women in the country.

The Taliban takeover in August 2021 brought down the Afghan economy and transformed the country, plunging millions of people into poverty and hunger. Foreign aid stopped almost overnight. Sanctions against the Taliban leadership, the halting of bank transfers and the freezing of billions in Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves have already restricted access to global institutions and the external money that supported the country’s dependent economy. aid to the country before the withdrawal of American and NATO forces.

In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that the exclusion of women from schools and NGO work in Afghanistan “can and will have catastrophic short and long-term humanitarian consequences”. The Taliban also banned female students from attending universities across the country this week.

In an interview with the AP last month, senior Red Cross official Martin Schuepp said more Afghans will struggle to survive as living conditions deteriorate over the year in come. Half of Afghanistan’s population, or 24 million people, needs humanitarian aid, according to the group.

Senior US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Charge d’Affaires in Afghanistan Karen Decker, condemned the move.

Decker, tweeting to Dari on Sunday, said: “As a representative of the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, I feel I have the right to have an explanation of how the Taliban have l intent to prevent women and children from starving to death, while women are no longer allowed to distribute aid to other women and children.”

His remarks sparked a response from the Taliban-led government’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, who said all institutions wishing to operate in the country are required to abide by its rules and regulations.

“We don’t allow anyone to say anything or make threats about our leaders’ decisions on humanitarian aid,” he said in a tweet.

The International Rescue Committee said it was appalled by the Taliban’s decision, adding that more than 3,000 of its employees in Afghanistan are women. “If we are not allowed to employ women, we are unable to deliver them to those in need,” the group said in a statement announcing it was suspending work in the country.

The NGO’s order came in a letter on Saturday from Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif. He said any organization that fails to comply with the order will have its license revoked in Afghanistan.

The flurry of rulings by the all-male, religious Taliban government recalls its rule in the late 1990s, when it barred women from education and public spaces and banned music, television and many sports.

The economy ministry’s order comes days after Taliban female students were banned from attending universities across the country, sparking backlash abroad and protests in major Afghan cities.

Around midnight Saturday in the western city of Herat, where protesters had been dispersed with water cannons, people opened their windows and chanted “Allahu Akbar (God is great)” in solidarity with the female students.

Also in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, hundreds of male students boycotted their final semester exams at Mirwais Neeka University. One told The Associated Press that Taliban forces tried to break up the crowd as they left the exam hall.

“They tried to disperse us so we chanted slogans and then others joined in the chanting,” said Akhbari, who gave only his surname. We refused to budge and the Taliban thought we were protesting. The Taliban started firing their guns in the air. I saw two guys being beaten, one of them in the head.

A spokesman for Kandahar provincial governor Ataullah Zaid denied there was a protest. There were people pretending to be students and teachers, he said, but they were arrested by students and security forces.