Restrictions on Women: 151 Organizations Ceased Activities in Afghanistan

By Amin Kawa

Before the fall of the republic, the Taliban had hinted at changing their views on women. However, once they came to power, they completely excluded women from all aspects of society, denying them their rights and freedom. This has caused 151 non-governmental organizations to cease their operations in the country. Furthermore, reports indicate that the international community has not provided any financial aid to Kabul in the past three weeks.

After regaining control, the Taliban excluded women from all areas of society and imposed strict regulations on them. Prohibiting education, employment, and travel without a mahram (male family member) are only a few of the violations of women’s rights, which, as women have said, has turned the country into a “Cemetery of Dreams” and has made life difficult for them.

On December 24th, the Taliban Ministry of Economy sent out a letter to all domestic and foreign institutions within the country, ordering them to immediately stop all activities of female employees until further notice. The letter stated, “As part of its responsibilities, the Ministry of Economy orders all institutions to ban the female employee’s activities of all respective departments until further notice.” The minister of the Taliban Ministry of Economy, Qari Din Mohammad Hanif, warned that any violation or delay in complying with the new law would result in the revocation of the institution’s license.

The UN Women has reported that due to the new law, 151 institutions have either ceased operations or reduced them by up to 86 percent. Additionally, they have released a research report analyzing the effects of the Taliban’s new regulation on governmental institutions. The UN Women also noted that one in three organizations led by women had to stop up to 70 percent of their activities.

For the past three weeks, no cash assistance from the international community has arrived in Afghanistan. The Central Bank of Afghanistan announced that the last cash aid of 40 million dollars was received in Kabul on December 14, 2022. After each round of humanitarian aid, the AIB private bank would publish a newsletter confirming the amount received. However, the bank has not published any newsletter in the past three weeks.

In total, the international community has donated $793 million to Afghanistan since the Taliban government took power 18 months ago.

On Friday, December 30th, Foreign Policy magazine released a report confirming that tens of millions of dollars are being sent to Afghanistan each week, but the money is being stolen by the Taliban authorities and never reaching the people who need it.

The female employees of both domestic and foreign institutions who have been banned by the Taliban have expressed their outrage at the decision, calling it inhumane and misogynistic. Many of them are worried about their uncertain future and the hardships they will face, including Tamana Aref. “We were forced to resign from our jobs this morning. We have been struggling to keep our jobs despite all the difficulties, but now the doors of our offices have been closed to us,” she said. “I am not as desperate as my colleagues who are the only source of income for their families. They have children and their husbands are unemployed,” she added.

Mrs. Aref said that under the Taliban regime, women were expected to stay in the corner of the house, serve their husbands, have no freedom, and not think about anything outside the four walls of the house. She expressed her despair, saying that she saw no future in Afghanistan, as she had been in her seventh semester of university when it closed, and the office she worked in had also closed. She added that the only options for women were to stay in the corner of the house or kitchen and have children, and that she had been denied her result sheets as she was not married and had no older brother.

Tamana argued that prohibiting women from working outside the home leads to forced and child marriage. She said, “I’ve noticed that many of our colleagues or their younger sisters are getting married. Young girls are being engaged to older men abroad. One of my colleagues, who has a master’s degree and whose husband is unemployed, was asking me what she should do, even though she doesn’t know how to run a bakery. In general, it’s become frightening for us to be in public. People in our neighborhood are giving us strange looks, more so than they were a month or a week ago. Do you think this is the Taliban’s attitude or the public’s? Who forces a child to get married? Only a father, who is worse than a Taliban. The public’s looks and attitudes are no different from a Taliban’s,” she continued angrily.

Tamana Aref believes that women have achieved their enlightenment through their own efforts and hard work. “In the last twenty years, despite all the difficulties, most of us managed to go to school without any help or encouragement. We had to fight against a world of misery and challenges,” she said passionately. “When the Taliban came, many of us had just started to reap the rewards of our hard work. The Taliban and others had the chance to cut us off from our roots,” she continued. She concluded by saying, “If society had supported educated women, their presence in offices, schools, and universities would have been commonplace. We would not be in the situation we are in now.”

Safia Rezaie was recently fired from two different organizations. She was working in a health department of a foreign institute for disabled people, but the organization refused to sign a contract with her due to the Taliban’s announcement. She was also dismissed from duties in an organization cooperating with the World Food Program (WFP), where she was about to become an official employee. Rezaie believes that the Taliban’s decision to erase women from society has had a negative impact on the economy and education system, and is leading society into a dark era. She also mentioned that the decision has left her feeling distressed and depressed, and she now visits a psychologist and takes medication to help her sleep at night.

The Taliban’s new law prohibiting women from working domestically and internationally has been met with strong opposition both inside and outside the country, leading the United Nations to declare it an unjustified violation of human rights.

The UN Agencies Reactions

On Tuesday, December 27th, the UN general secretary, Antonio Guterres tweeted that these restrictions are a violation of human rights and unjustified, and must be lifted. He also said that the attempts to remove and silence women and girls in Afghanistan are causing suffering, distress, and great defeats for the people of Afghanistan.

The UN’s Twenty Committees

The directors of all twenty UN committees have warned that if women are not present, all humanitarian aid to Afghanistan will cease. Many of these committees have declared that the lack of women in national and international organizations has led to a temporary halt in aid to the country. They have stressed that it is impossible to provide humanitarian aid without female aid workers.

The UN Security Organization

On Tuesday, December 27th, this council released a statement regarding the Taliban’s ban on women attending universities and working in institutions. They said that this ban would have “significant and immediate effects” on humanitarian operations, including those of the United Nations, in Afghanistan. This ban goes against the Taliban’s promises to the people of Afghanistan and the expectations of the international community.

The UN Population and Development Commission

On Monday, December 26th, the UN Population and Development Commission released a statement saying that the Taliban’s ban on women’s education and employment in Afghanistan violates international human rights law. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the committee, was quoted as saying that the recent restriction has taken away Afghan women’s freedom of choice and decision-making.

The UN Women Committee

On Sunday, December 25th, the UN Women‘s Committee tweeted that prohibiting women from working is a violation of humanitarian principles and would lead to an even greater crisis in Afghanistan. The institution emphasized that erasing half of the country‘s population would be the greatest distress in dealing with the humanitarian crisis. Sima Bahous, the executive director of UN Women, strongly condemned the ban of Afghan women from work and implied that the Taliban‘s misogynistic attitudes towards women continue. At a meeting with Mohammad Abbas Akhund, the minister of combating incidents of the Taliban, Fran Equiza, the deputy coordinator of UN humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, said that the suspension of women‘s work would have severe consequences for Afghanistan.

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told BBC Farsi that women must not work in institutions because they are not under their control and there is a high danger for women. He also claimed that the law was imposed topreserve the dignity of women“. As a result, women have been banned from working in domestic and foreign institutions, and are now only allowed to perform daily chores, with the exception of female doctors and nurses. Additionally, women are prohibited from going to universities, schools, baths, parks, and stadiums, thus completely excluding them from collective life.