Kabul: Taliban administration on Saturday ordered all local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to stop female employees from coming to work, according to an economy ministry letter, in the latest restriction on women’s movements.
The letter, confirmed by economy ministry spokesperson, said the female employees were not allowed to work until further notice because some had not adhered to the Islamic dress code for women.
It was not immediately clear whether the order applied to United Nations agencies, which have a large presence in Afghanistan.
It comes days after the Taliban ordered universities to close to women, prompting strong global condemnation and sparking some protests and criticism inside Afghanistan.
When asked whether the rules included UN agencies, the spokesperson said the letter applied to organisations under Afghanistan’s coordinating body for humanitarian organisations, known as ACBAR. That body does not include the United Nations, but includes over 180 local and international NGOs.
However, the United Nations often contracts with NGOs registered in Afghanistan to carry out its humanitarian work.
Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan and humanitarian coordinator, said he was “deeply concerned” by reports of the letter, which was a “clear breach of humanitarian principles”.
He told the Reuters news agency that contracted NGOs carried out most of the UN’s activities and that their work would be heavily impacted.
“Many of our programmes will be affected,” he said, because they need female staff to assess humanitarian needs and identify beneficiaries, otherwise they will not be able to implement aid programmes.
Afghanistan’s already struggling economy has tipped into crisis, with the country facing sanctions, asset freeze and cuts in development aid.
Humanitarian aid, aimed at meeting urgent needs, has provided a lifeline to millions of people. Over half of Afghanistan’s population is reliant on humanitarian aid, according to the International Rescue Committee.