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UN: Taliban Dismiss 600 Female Afghan Workers Over Edict Violations 


FILE - Afghan burqa-clad women stand in a queue as they wait to receive food being distributed as an aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) organisation at Nawabad Kako Sahib area in Baraki Barak district of Logar Province, Jan. 7, 2024.
FILE - Afghan burqa-clad women stand in a queue as they wait to receive food being distributed as an aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) organisation at Nawabad Kako Sahib area in Baraki Barak district of Logar Province, Jan. 7, 2024.

The United Nations said Monday that the Taliban government in impoverished Afghanistan had recently forced hundreds of females out of their jobs for allegedly not adhering to Islamic law requirements imposed on women nationwide.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, documented the job dismissals in its latest report on human rights, covering the last quarter of 2023 in a country where millions of people need humanitarian aid.

“The de facto authorities continue to enforce and promulgate restrictions on women’s rights to work, education, and freedom of movement,” according to the report.

UNAMA noted that the Taliban’s Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had taken the enforcement role, impeding women from working or accessing services because they were unmarried or did not have a male guardian.

It said that a lack of compliance with the hijab or dress code, absence of a mahram, or male relative, and other restrictions imposed on women visiting public places, offices, and educational institutions had apparently led to at least 600 women losing jobs in two Afghan provinces during the reported period.

The provincial chapter of the ministry banned 400 women from working in a pine-nut processing plant in eastern Nangarhar province in October without providing any reasons, while men were allowed to continue working, the report stated.

It added that a Taliban-run power plant in northern Balkh province in November dismissed 200 women allegedly due to financial reasons, yet no male employees faced the same action. In one instance, the vice and virtue ministry officials “advised an unmarried female staff at a healthcare facility to get married or risk losing her job, stating that it was inappropriate for an unmarried woman to work,” the report said.

Last month, the ministry officials visited a bus terminal in southern Kandahar city to ensure that women were not traveling long distances without a male relative and instructed drivers not to allow female passengers to board buses if they are not accompanied by a chaperone, according to the UNAMA findings.

The report said that women without male relatives in the eastern Paktia Province have been denied healthcare access since early December, with authorities from the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice continuing to visit provincial health facilities to ensure compliance.

UNAMA stated that while there is no general ban on women’s employment in Afghanistan, the mahram requirement effectively limits their right to work if they do not have a male relative who can accompany them to workplaces.

The report recorded instances of arbitrary arrests and detentions, sentencing, and some releases of human rights defenders and journalists, including women, from October to December.

“The de facto authorities continue to infringe the right to freedom of expression by limiting the public’s opportunity to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas,” UNAMA said.

The report also documented growing suicide bombings and other attacks on members of the country’s predominantly Shiite ethnic Hazara community over the past three months. The violence, mostly claimed by Islamic State militants, killed nearly 50 Afghan Shiite Muslims and wounded many more.

The U.N. mission said its human rights workers continued to record extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and torture and ill-treatment of former Afghan government officials and security forces. The Taliban have persistently denied the charges, saying they are adhering to a general amnesty their leadership announced after seizing control of Afghanistan in August 2021.

The fundamentalist Taliban have since imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law, banning Afghan girls from receiving an education beyond sixth grade and most female employees from public as well as private workplaces.

The international community has denounced the Taliban curbs on women and demanded they be removed immediately. No foreign country has recognized the de facto Afghan government, mainly over human rights concerns and the treatment of women.

The Taliban rejected Monday’s U.N. report, claiming it shows the world body’s “ignorance” about Sharia or Islamic law.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief Taliban spokesman, asserted in an English-language statement that denouncing Islamic rules as “an act against human rights…is obviously an insult to people's beliefs.”

Mujahid advised UNAMA to desist from criticizing the Afghan nation’s religious matters.

“Women's hijab, the necessity of Sharia mahram with women, Sharia environment for women's work and education….these are all the commitments and responsibilities of a responsive and Islamic government,” he said.