Taliban orders NGOs to suspend female employees over headscarves

In another crackdown on women, the Afghan Taliban government on Saturday called on all nongovernmental organizations in the country to suspend their female employees, allegedly because some of them were wearing the Islamic headscarf incorrectly.

It was not immediately clear whether the order applied to all women or just Afghan women working in NGOs.

At the same time, the Taliban said women could no longer attend religious classes at mosques in Kabul.

Saturday’s orders came just three days after the Taliban announced they would no longer allow women to attend universities. Girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned last year and there are fears the Taliban will eventually force women to stay at home.

Afghan women protested the ban in major cities – a rare and dangerous move, given the Taliban took over the entire country last year.

On Saturday, Taliban security forces used a water cannon to disperse women protesting the ban on university education for women in the western city of Herat, witnesses told the ‘Associated Press.

The demands for dismissal came because the women were supposedly wearing their headscarves incorrectly.
MARCUS YAM/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Women also staged protests in Kabul last week, the BBC reported.

The new NGO order came in a letter from Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif, who said any organization that does not comply with the order will have its license to operate in Afghanistan revoked.

The ministry said it had received “serious complaints” about female NGO workers wearing the “correct” headscarf, or hijab.

“It’s a heartbreaking announcement,” said Maliha Niazai, 25, a master trainer at an NGO that teaches young people about issues such as gender-based violence. “Aren’t we human beings? Why do they treat us with this cruelty? »

Women whose husbands cannot work talk as they sew children's clothes in a factory
The ministry reportedly received complaints that female NGO workers were wearing the wrong headscarf, or hijab.
Suzanne Plunkett/Associated Press

Niazai, who works at Y-Peer Afghanistan and lives in Kabul, said her work was important because she served her country and was the sole breadwinner in her family.

“Will officials support us after this announcement? Otherwise, why are they snatching meals from our mouths? ” she asked.

Another NGO worker, a 24-year-old from Jalalabad working for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was “the worst time of my life”.

“The job gives me more than a life, it’s a representation of all the effort I’ve put in,” she said, declining to be named, fearing for her own safety.

Girls walk to their school along a road in Garde, Paktia
Afghan women protested against this decision.
AFP via Getty Images

Countries around the world have spoken out against the ban on universities, including officials from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The United States and the G-7 group of major industrial nations have also warned Afghanistan that the policy will have consequences for the Taliban.

A Taliban government official, Higher Education Minister Nida Mohammad Nadim, spoke about the ban for the first time on Thursday in an interview with Afghan state television.

He said the ban was necessary to prevent gender mixing at universities and because he believes some subjects taught violate principles of Islam. He said the ban would be in place until further notice.

The Taliban have promised that women will be treated fairly after they return to power in August 2021 after two decades of US-backed rule. But they have increasingly imposed their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, across the country since then.

With pole wires

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