The Taliban authorities on Saturday ordered non-governmental organizations to stop working with women because they did not respect an appropriate dress code. This announcement comes four days after girls were banned from studying at university for the same reasons. “There have been serious complaints about non-compliance with the Islamic hijab and other rules and regulations relating to women’s work in national and international organizations,” said the ministry, which is responsible for approving licenses of NGOs operating in Afghanistanin a letter obtained by AFP.
“In case of negligence of the directive (…) the license of the organization which was issued by this ministry will be cancelled”, specifies the letter which is addressed to national and international NGOs.
A press release from the ministry sent to NGOs
Two international NGOs that AFP spoke to confirmed that they had received the ministry statement. “We are suspending all our activities from Sunday,” a senior official of an international organization involved in humanitarian action in several remote areas of the country told AFP, on condition of anonymity. The announcement comes just four days after the Taliban government decided to ban Afghan women from attending public and private universities in the country for an indefinite period.
The Minister of Higher Education, Neda Mohammad Nadeem, explained two days after this announcement to have taken this decision because the “students who went to the university (…) did not respect the instructions on the hijab”. “The hijab is obligatory in Islam,” he insisted, referring to the requirement for women in Afghanistan to cover their faces and their entire bodies. According to him, girls who studied in a province far from their home “did not travel with a mahram, an adult male attendant either”.
Banned from several public places
This new attack on women’s rights has come as a shock to many young Afghan women already excluded from secondary schools and has drawn international condemnation. Despite their promises to be more flexible, the Taliban have returned to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that marked their first spell in power (1996-2001). For 16 months, liberticidal measures have multiplied, in particular against women who have been gradually excluded from public life and excluded from colleges and high schools.
In an unexpected about-face, on March 23, the Taliban closed secondary schools just hours after their long-announced reopening. Various members of power had said that there were not enough teachers or money but also that schools would reopen once an Islamic curriculum was developed. As well as being deprived of education, women are also banned from most government jobs or paid a pittance to stay at home.
They are also prohibited from traveling without being accompanied by a male relative and must wear a burqa or hijab when leaving their homes. Last November, the Taliban also banned them from entering parks, gardens, sports halls and public baths.