Leading Afghan women's rights group condemns Taliban's ban on women working for NGOs, attending university

Taliban education chief defends banning women from universities despite international condemnation

A woman protestor scuffles with a member of the Taliban during a demonstration outside a school in Kabul on Sept. 30, 2021.
A woman protestor scuffles with a member of the Taliban during a demonstration outside a school in Kabul on Sept. 30, 2021. | BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

UPDATED DEC. 26 AT 12:30 P.M. ET

A leading women's rights organization in Afghanistan has condemned the Taliban's prohibition on women working for aid groups or attending universities and demanded that the terrorist group halt its oppressive policies, predicting that the country will fall without the full participation of women. 

Days after the Taliban implemented a policy banning women from seeking a university education, it also prohibited women from working at non-governmental organizations. This decision immediately led to several NGOs ceasing or reducing their operations in that country.

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According to the BBC, Care International, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children are shuttering. Similarly, the International Rescue Committee suspended services, and Islamic Relief said it would no longer be working at full capacity.

Sabena Chaudhry, a communications specialist at Women for Afghan Women, one of the largest Afghan women's rights organizations, told The Christian Post in an emailed statement that the group remains committed to ensuring women in Afghanistan enjoy "the right to live without fear and oppression." 

"We join the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan in reminding the Taliban that 'any such order would violate the most fundamental rights of women, as well as be a clear breach of humanitarian principles,'" she wrote. 

"The Taliban should immediately end this brutal and senseless policy and allow women to return safely to work," Chaudhry continued. "No organization, country, economy, or community can thrive without the equal, full and meaningful participation of women."

Taliban education minister Nida Mohammad Nadim told an Afghan television outlet that the ban issued last week is in place until further notice. According to The Associated Press, he said it was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders, suggesting that the failure of women to follow a strict Islamic dress code was partly to blame. 

"We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn't and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony," he was quoted as saying. "Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn't match Afghan culture. Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor."

He further claimed that universities would reopen for women once these issues are resolved. 

The comments came amid condemnation from the U.N. The foreign ministers of the group of seven (G7) — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union — also called for the ban to be rescinded because "gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity."

In a statement, the U.N.'s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the Taliban for banning women from attending universities, calling on the "de facto authorities to immediately revoke the decision." 

"The U.N. and its humanitarian partners also urge the de facto authorities to reopen girls' schools beyond the sixth grade and end all measures preventing women and girls from participating fully in daily public life," the statement reads. 

Since Aug. 15, 2021, authorities in Afghanistan have barred girls from attending secondary school and reduced their involvement in the workforce, among other restrictions. Women are also banned from parks, gyms and public bath houses, with this latest restriction further confining women to their homes.

Shabnam Nasimi, the former policy special advisor to the U.K.'s Minister for Afghan Resettlement & Minister for Refugees, shared a letter on Twitter from the Taliban's higher education minister announcing the closure of universities to women. 

"The letter states that all universities will remain closed for women until further notice," Nasimi wrote. "Catastrophic." 

In a tweet the following day, the former policy advisor shared a video showing male university students walking out of an exam in protest of the decision. Nasimi added that several male professors have resigned following the ban on women receiving a university education.

A Thursday tweet by Nasimi showed another video of Afghan women taking to the streets in Kabul to protest the Taliban's decree. 

"Either for everyone or for no one. One for all, all for one," the women in the video chant. 

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Taliban in a Tuesday tweet, proclaiming that the group is "denying women the right to a university education."

"Afghan women deserve better. Afghanistan deserves better," Blinken wrote." The Taliban have just definitively set back their objective of being accepted by the international community." 

The Taliban quickly seized control of the country after President Joe Biden's controversial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country in August 2021. Human rights advocates have since spoken out about the deteriorating conditions for women and religious minorities in that country.

The Taliban has placed numerous restrictions on women following the withdrawal. 

In May, the Taliban's Supreme Leader, Hibatullah Akhunzada, decreed that Afghan women must resume wearing full-body coverings in public. The decree states that fathers or close male relatives could lose their jobs or face imprisonment if a woman in their family does not conceal her face in public. 

"While more than 35 [million] people are on the edge of starvation, the Taliban's only priority seems to be women's clothing," former Afghan Parliament Member Fawzia Koofi wrote in a tweet on May 7. "Women of Afghanistan have always dressed up according to Islamic principles. Burqa is a traditional wear and has always been an individual choice and never compulsory in Islam."

The Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ministry also imposed travel restrictions on women last December, prohibiting them from traveling more than 45 miles without a close male relative. 

As The Christian Post reported, the Taliban publicly flogged 14 people last month at a soccer stadium in eastern Afghanistan, three of whom were women. The individuals received between 21 and 39 lashes for crimes such as adultery and theft. 

Taliban spokesman Omar Mansoor Mujahid said the three women were released after receiving their lashings, but some of the men were jailed, according to The Telegraph. The lashings reported in November marked the second time the group utilized this punishment. 

In August, The Telegraph reported that Taliban officials released a statement announcing the lashings of five people, including two women, in the Zabul province. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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