UN official meets Taliban deputy premier to discuss women NGO ban

According to Ahram Online, A senior U.N. official in Afghanistan met yesterday the deputy prime minister of the Taliban-led government to discuss a ban on women working for non-governmental groups that Afghan authorities have announced in a series of measures rolling back women’s rights.

The Taliban government’s decision to prohibit women from working for non-governmental organizations has caused major international aid organizations to suspend operations in the country. The ban has raised concerns that people will be deprived of food, education, healthcare, and other critical services, even though more than half of Afghanistan’s population requires immediate humanitarian assistance.

Aid agencies have warned the ban will have catastrophic consequences and “hundreds and thousands” of Afghans will die because of the Taliban decision.

The deputy head of the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan, Potzel Markus, met Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi in the capital Kabul to discuss the ban, as well as other measures including barring women from universities.

“By prohibiting women from working in non-governmental organizations and denying girls and women access to education and training, millions of Afghans suffer and vital aid is not delivered to Afghan men, women, and children,” the UN mission said.

Potzel is the latest U.N. official to meet the Taliban’s leadership amid mounting international concern over the curtailing of women’s freedoms in Afghanistan.

Last Monday, the acting head of the U.N. mission Ramiz Alakbarov met Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif.

Hanif issued the NGO ban on December 24, allegedly because women were not correctly wearing the Islamic headscarf or hijab. He stated that any organisation found to violate the order will have its licence revoked.

Aid agencies have been providing essential services and support in the face of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The Taliban takeover in 2021, as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout after 20 years of war, sent Afghanistan’s economy into a tailspin and transformed the country, driving millions into poverty and hunger. Foreign aid stopped almost overnight.

Sanctions against the Taliban rulers, such as a halt in bank transfers and the freezing of billions of dollars in Afghan foreign assets, have already limited access to global institutions. Before the Taliban takeover, aid funds aided the country’s aid-dependent economy.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths is due to visit Afghanistan to discuss the ban.

Potzel’s meeting with Hanafi came as a United Nations survey revealed that a third of NGOs led by women in Afghanistan have been forced to halt 70 per cent of their operations due to the ban, and another third have ceased all operations entirely.

The U.N. Women’s Department said 86 per cent of the 151 organizations surveyed have either stopped or are functioning partially.

It also said the lack of women in the distribution of aid has had a significant impact on the Afghan population.

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