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Taliban Rebukes UN Over Call to Lift Bans on Afghan Women

People demonstrate in front of the White House in Washington, Jan. 1, 2023, against the Afghan Taliban regime's ban of higher education for women.
People demonstrate in front of the White House in Washington, Jan. 1, 2023, against the Afghan Taliban regime's ban of higher education for women.

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday rebuffed a renewed call by the United Nations to reverse rules blocking women’s access to work and education, insisting they are regulating “all matters” in line with Islamic law or Shariah.

“Considering the responsibility it has towards the people and religion, the Islamic Emirate cannot allow acts against Shariah in the country,” chief Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.

His statement came in response to Friday’s private meeting by the 15-nation U.N. Security Council where participants discussed and expressed “grave concern” regarding the restrictions the Taliban have imposed on women since seizing power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Mujahid noted in his response that the Taliban administration “understands” the concern expressed by the Security Council.

“Countries and international organizations should understand the religious demands of our nation and not link humanitarian issues/aid to politics. Based on our religious principles and values, we are ready to cooperate in any field,” he said.

The Islamist Taliban have excluded women from almost all areas of public life, banning them from secondary and university education, visiting parks, gyms and bath facilities, and ordering most female government employees to stay at home.

Last, month the hardline rulers forbade Afghan women from working for NGOs, saying they were not wearing the Islamic headscarf or respecting other Shariah directives. The move drew a strong backlash from the world and warnings that it could worsen an already bad humanitarian crisis in the crisis-hit country.

Before Friday's closed-door meeting, nearly a dozen Security Council members, including the United States, Britain, France Japan, Malta, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, issued a joint statement underscoring the need to include women across all aspects of Afghan society.

“We urge the Taliban to immediately reverse all oppressive measures against women and girls,” Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane, the current president of the Security Council, delivered the statement on behalf of the 11 council members.

“Without their participation in aid delivery in Afghanistan and their essential expertise, NGOs will be unable to reach those most in need, in particular women and girls, to provide lifesaving materials and services," he said.

The statement called on the Taliban to “respect the rights of women and girls, and their full, equal and meaningful participation and inclusion across all aspects of society in Afghanistan, from political and economic, to education and public space.”

The ban on female aid workers has forced many NGOs to suspend their lifesaving programs in Afghanistan, but the U.N. said its agencies would continue their operations in a country where 97% of Afghans live in poverty, two-thirds of the population need aid to survive, and 20 million people face acute hunger.

U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters Friday after the council’s private discussions that the Taliban’s “grave violations of fundamental rights” had also contradicted assurances given to the global community following their takeover of Afghanistan about the role women would play in the country under their fundamentalist rule.