Afghan women chant and hold signs of protest during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2022. AP
Last week, the country's Taliban rulers took a step further in the restrictive measures they have imposed on women and said that female Afghan staffers employed with the U.N. mission can no longer report for work.
The ban is being actively enforced by the country's intelligence agency, which reports to the Taliban's leadership in Kandahar.
The U.N. says it cannot accept the decision, calling it unlawful and an unparalleled violation of women’s rights. It says women are crucial for the delivery of life-saving aid to millions of Afghans, and has instructed its national staff, male and female, to stay at home.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban-led government's chief spokesman and part of the supreme leader's inner circle, denied authorities were to blame for Afghanistan's many crises.
The decision to bar Afghan women from working at the U.N. was an internal matter and should be respected by all sides, Mujahid said, as he set out the Taliban's demands from the international community.
"This decision does not mean there is discrimination here, or that the activities of the United Nations are blocked. On the contrary, we are committed to all the rights of all our countrymen, taking into account their religious and cultural interests.
“Considering the emergency situation in Afghanistan, it is necessary for the member countries of the United Nations to resolve the problem of frozen Afghan assets, banking, travel bans and other restrictions as soon as possible so that Afghanistan can progress in economic, political and security areas. Afghans have the capacity to stand on their own feet.”
Aid agencies have been providing food, education and health care support to Afghans in the wake of the Taliban takeover and the economic collapse that followed it. But distribution has been severely affected by a Taliban edict banning women from working at non-governmental organizations — and, now, also at the U.N.
No country has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and the country's seat at the U.N. is held by the former government of President Ashraf Ghani.