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UN officials condemn Taliban ban on female Afghan staffers


ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.N. officials have condemned a Taliban decision to bar Afghan female staffers from working at the agency.

Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule than during its previous stint in power, the Taliban have imposed harsh measures since taking over the country in 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces were pulling out of Afghanistan after two decades of war.

Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade. Women are barred from working, studying, traveling without a male companion, and even going to parks. Women must also cover themselves from head to toe.

Afghan women are already barred from working at national and international non-governmental organizations, disrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid, but the ban did not previously cover working for the U.N.

On Tuesday, however, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan expressed concern after its female staffers were prevented from reporting to work in eastern Nangarhar province. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said agency officials were told that the ban applied to the whole country.

Taliban spokesmen were not immediately available for comment, and authorities have not issued a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the ban on female staffers reporting for work in Nangarhar.

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said the latest ban on women was “another gross violation” of their fundamental rights. He said it was against the agency's charter and urged the Taliban to reverse their decision immediately.

The U.N. has about 3,900 staff in Afghanistan, including approximately 3,300 Afghans and 600 international personnel, he said. The total also includes 600 Afghan women and 200 women from other countries.

The U.N. political mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, is headed by a woman, Roza Otunbayeva, a former president and foreign minister of the Kyrgyz Republic. She was appointed by the secretary-general in coordination with the U.N. Security Council. Dujarric said there’s been no Taliban action regarding the U.N.’s senior leadership.

Taliban restrictions in Afghanistan, especially the bans on education and NGO work, have drawn fierce international condemnation. But the Taliban have shown no signs of backing down, claiming the bans are temporary suspensions in place allegedly because women were not wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, correctly and because gender segregation rules were not being followed.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.