Three foreign aid groups, including Save the Children, announced Sunday they were suspending their work in Afghanistan after the Taliban ordered all NGOs to stop their women staff from working, a statement said.
“Whilst we gain clarity on this announcement, we are suspending our programmes, demanding that men and women can equally continue our lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan,” Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE said in a joint statement.
AFP had reported, quoting aid officials, that top officials from the United Nations and dozens of NGOs operating in Afghanistan were meeting in Kabul Sunday to discuss the way ahead after the Taliban authorities ordered all NGOs to stop women employees from working.
The order issued by the Taliban authorities drew swift international condemnation, with governments and organisations warning of the impact on humanitarian services in a country where millions rely on aid.
The latest restriction comes less than a week after the hardline Islamists banned women from attending universities, prompting global outrage and protests in some Afghan cities.
The Ministry of Economy on Saturday threatened to suspend the operating licences of NGOs if they failed to implement the order.
The ministry, which issues these licences, said it had received “serious complaints” that women working in NGOs were not observing a proper Islamic dress code.
“A meeting of Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is scheduled later today to consult and discuss how to tackle this issue,” Tapiwa Gomo, public information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP.
The HCT comprises top UN officials and representatives of dozens of Afghan and international NGOs who coordinate the distribution of aid across the country.
The meeting will discuss whether to suspend all aid work following the latest Taliban directive, some NGO officials said.
The United Nations, which said it would seek an explanation from the Taliban about the order, condemned the ministry’s directive.
It said the order excluding women “systematically from all aspects of public and political life takes the country backwards, jeopardising efforts for any meaningful peace or stability in the country”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ban would be “devastating” to Afghans as it would “disrupt vital and life-saving assistance to millions”.