The Taliban’s latest attack on Afghani women is banning non-governmental organizations in the country from employing them.
The development comes just days after the Taliban banned female students from attending universities across the country. Afghan women have since demonstrated in major cities against the ban, a rare sign of domestic protest since the Taliban seized power last year. The decision has also caused outrage and opposition in Afghanistan and beyond.
The order came in a letter from Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammed Hanif, who said that any NGO found not complying with the order will have their operating license revoked in Afghanistan. The ministry’s spokesperson, Abdul Rahman Habib, confirmed the letter’s content to The Associated Press.
The ministry said it had received “serious complaints” about the female staff working for NGOs not wearing the “correct” headscarf or hijab. It was not immediately clear if the order applies to all women or only Afghan women working at the NGOs.
“It’s a heartbreaking announcement,” said Maliha Niazai, a master trainer at an NGO teaching young people about issues such as gender-based violence. “Are we not human beings? Why are they treating us with this cruelty?”
The 25-year-old, who works at Y-Peer Afghanistan and lives in Kabul, said her job was important because she was serving her country and she’s the only person supporting her family. “Will the officials support us after this announcement? If not, then why are they snatching meals from our mouths?” she asked.
Another NGO worker, a 24-year-old from Jalalabad working for the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was “the worst moment of my life.”
“The job gives me more than a … living; it is a representation of all the efforts I’ve made,” she said, declining to give her name fearing for her own safety.
There has been widespread international condemnation of the university ban, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as warnings from the United States and the G7 group of major industrial nations that the policy will have consequences for the Taliban.
An official in the Taliban government, Minister of Higher Education Nida Mohammad Nadim, spoke about the ban for the first time on Thursday in an interview with Afghan state television.
He said the ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. He also said the ban would be in place until further notice.
Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women and minorities, the Taliban have widely implemented their interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah, since they seized power in August 2021.