Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that a decision by the Taliban to prohibit women in Afghanistan from working for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) could be “devastating” for the people in the country.
Blinken said in a tweet that he is “deeply concerned” that the decision will disrupt the providing of “vital and life-saving assistance to millions.”
“Women are central to humanitarian operations around the world. This decision could be devastating for the Afghan people,” he said.
The Taliban introduced the rule on Saturday allegedly as a result of women not wearing their hijab, the Islamic headscarf, properly. Three major international aid groups — Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE — responded by suspending their operations in Afghanistan, saying they cannot effectively reach those in need without women in their workforce.
The organizations had provided health care, education, child protection and nutrition services and support to the country, which has experienced soaring levels of poverty since the Taliban took over last August.
The Taliban’s economy ministry said it received “serious complaints” about women working for NGOs not wearing the “correct” headscarf.
Afghanistan’s economy bottomed out after the Taliban returned to power at the end of the war in the country as foreign aid stopped almost immediately. Sanctions placed on the Taliban’s leaders, bank transfers being stopped and billions in currency reserves being frozen further strained the country, whose economy had been dependent on foreign aid to remain steady.
The Taliban also separately banned women from attending religious classes in mosques in the capital Kabul on Saturday, days after it prohibited female students from attending universities across the country.
The international community has widely slammed the ban on higher-education attendance, and Afghan women have been protesting in major cities across the country.
Taliban security officials responded to one protest in the western city of Herat by using a water cannon on protesters.
The United Nations has said it plans to meet with Taliban leadership to gain clarity on the order.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: The Hill