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UN Makes 'appalling Choice' In Wake Of Taliban Ban, Asks Afghan Staff To Stay Home

The UN said it was being forced into making an “appalling choice” after instructing all of its personnel in Afghanistan to stay away from its offices.

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| Written By
Anmol Singla
Afghanistan Taliban

Image: AP

In response to the Taliban's ban on female Afghan aid workers, the United Nations (UN) has instructed all of its personnel in Afghanistan to avoid its offices in the country, leading to what it described as an "appalling choice." “UN national personnel – women and men – have been instructed not to report to UN offices, with only limited and calibrated exceptions made for critical tasks,” the organisation said in a statement.

In the aftermath of the Taliban's return to power in August 2021, a range of discriminatory measures have been implemented to limit the involvement of Afghan women and girls in many aspects of public and daily life. Last week, male Afghan UN employees in Kabul chose to stay at home in solidarity with their female colleagues, and this latest ban has come in the wake of that action.

According to the UN, the recent ban imposed by the Taliban is an extension of a previous ban that was put in place last December, which forbade Afghan women from working for both national and international non-governmental organisations.

The decree forced the UN “into having to make an appalling choice between staying and delivering in support of the Afghan people and standing by the norms and principles we are duty-bound to uphold,” the organisation said in a statement Tuesday. It added that the ban was “the latest in a series of discriminatory measures implemented by the Taliban de facto authorities with the goal of severely restricting women and girls’ participation in most areas of public and daily life in Afghanistan.”

The UN will continue to “assess the scope, parameters and consequences of the ban, and pause activities where impeded,” the statement said, adding that the “matter will be under constant review.”

Since the Taliban took control in 2021, numerous female UN personnel in the country have encountered limitations on their mobility, which have resulted in harassment and imprisonment.

According to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, the 3,300 Afghans working for the UN - 2,700 men and 600 women - have been staying at home since last Wednesday but are still working and will receive payment. The UN's international staff, which consists of 600 individuals, including 200 women, is not impacted by the Taliban's ban.

Senior UN officials engage with the Taliban

Last week, Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN's Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, condemned the Taliban's decision as an "unprecedented violation of human rights". “The lives of Afghanistan women are at stake,” he said, adding, “It is not possible to reach women without women.”

Last week, the United Nations stated that Roza Otunbayeva, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, is communicating with the Taliban's top leadership to urge them to overturn the decision without delay.

“In the history of the United Nations, no other regime has ever tried to ban women from working for the Organisation just because they are women. This decision represents an assault against women, the fundamental principles of the UN, and on international law,” said Otunbayeva.

Various individuals within the organisation have spoken out against the decision, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights referring to it as "utterly despicable."

Following the Taliban's ban on female aid workers in December, several major foreign aid organisations suspended their operations temporarily, further reducing the already limited resources available to a country in dire need of assistance.

The Taliban's return to power has coincided with a worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, exacerbating long-standing issues in the country. The freezing of approximately $7 billion of the country's foreign reserves by the US and its allies, coupled with the cessation of international funding, has crippled an economy heavily reliant on foreign aid.

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