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US Faces Dilemma Over Taliban Ban On Female Aid Workers



US Faces Dilemma Over Taliban Ban On Female Aid Workers

(CTN NEWS) – KABUL – A Kabul-based aid organization that helps abused Taliban women, Abaad, is receiving frightened and often tearful calls from clients and colleagues alike.

Deliveries that keep millions of Afghans alive are being halted by a Taliban proclamation issued on December 24 that bans women’s employment by relief organizations, endangering the nation’s humanitarian services.

Another impact of the ban is that hundreds of women who labor for these groups throughout the war-torn nation would lose the income they rely on to support their families.

Since the U.S. military withdrawal in August 2021 created the opportunity for the Taliban takeover, the prohibition represents one of the main policy difficulties for the United States and other nations regarding Afghanistan.

An Afghan woman receives a food ration distributed by a South Korean humanitarian aid group in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

These countries have the challenging task of formulating an international response that neither makes the situation of millions of Afghans who depend on aid worse nor gives in to the Taliban’s repression of women.

The restriction, which is the Taliban’s most recent attempt to exclude women from public life, has led to the partial or complete closure of operations by 85% of nongovernmental aid organizations in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.

One of the companies halting operations was Abaad. Women who had experienced rape, beatings, forced marriages, or other forms of domestic abuse received help and therapy from their female employees.

The Abaad employee was informed by female clients that they are concerned about ending up on Kabul’s streets if the group isn’t there to aid.

Aid experts estimate that 97% of the population of Afghanistan is currently living in poverty or at risk of doing so, and thousands of workers, much like her, rely on their earnings to survive.

A Save the Children nutrition counsellor explains to Nelab, 22, how to feed her 11-month-old daughter, Parsto, with therapeutic food, which is used to treat severe acute malnutrition, in Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Save the Children via AP, File)

A coworker confided in her that she was thinking about suicide.

The relief worker expressed hope that the United States, the United Nations, and others will support them and convince the Taliban to relax the restriction, as did other people interviewed.

“We only ask for that. They ought to devise a plan to help the Afghan people,” she remarked. She spoke under the name of anonymity out of concern for her safety.

Leading international relief groups who have ceased operations are asking U.N. aid organizations to follow suit.

They request that the Biden administration utilize its clout to guarantee that the international community maintains its resolve.

The largest single humanitarian donor to Afghanistan is the United States. One of the responsibilities for which it seeks to maintain a limited partnership with the Taliban is eliminating security concerns from extremist groups in Afghanistan.

An Afghan woman waits to receive a food ration distributed by a South Korean humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

A U.S. official engaged in the deliberations expected that the eventual international response would lie between ceasing all humanitarian activities, which the person said would be cruel and ineffective, and the other extreme of fully acquiescing in the Taliban ban.

According to another U.S. official and nongovernmental officials involved in the conversation, one suggestion being considered by the administration is suspending all help to Afghans other than that necessary for their survival.

The officials spoke on anonymity because they were not permitted to publicly disclose ongoing discussions.

Analysts and representatives of aid organizations draw attention to the challenge of defining what constitutes lifesaving support. Yes, food assistance.

What about further forms of assistance, like maternal care, which has helped reduce Afghanistan’s maternal mortality rate by more than halving during the 1990s?

Major nonprofit organizations claim that without female staff, it would be impossible to successfully assist the 75% of people in need who are women and children.

That is a result of the Taliban’s restrictions on inter-gender contact and the conservative traditions of Afghanistan.

A Taliban fighter stands guard as people wait to receive food rations distributed by a South Korean humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Anastasia Moran, senior officer for the humanitarian policy of the International Rescue Committee, claimed that the suspensions were necessary for operational reasons. “It’s not meant as punishment. It is not attempting to cut off services. It’s not a strategy for negotiations.

The Taliban’s crackdown is bringing back the circumstances from when they first came to power in the middle of the 1990s when a series of edicts forced women into their homes and away from jobs, education, and humanitarian work.

Finally, Taliban officials instructed people to paint their windows black so no one outside could see the women inside. It left women and children in households headed by women with few options for getting money or assistance to survive.

The American invasion ended that initial period of Taliban control after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Biden administration and aid organizations all refer to a commitment to prevent a repetition of the fragmented, rivalry-driven, and frequently ad hoc international reaction to Taliban abuses in the 1990s, especially the crackdown on women.

People wait to receive food rations distributed by a South Korean humanitarian aid group, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

The U.N. Security Council convened Friday in private to discuss the global reaction after 11 of the council’s 15 members restated their need for “unrestricted access for humanitarian actors regardless of gender.”

The humanitarian crisis caused by the Taliban’s embargo strikes Biden at a politically delicate time since Republicans are now in control of the House and have promised to look into the haphazard pullout from Afghanistan.

The House International Affairs Committee’s newly appointed chair, Rep. Michael McCaul, a foreign affairs veteran, termed the crackdown on women one of the “disastrous” effects of the U.S. pullout.

Texas Republican McCaul said his committee would demand answers from Obama officials over how they handled the country’s Afghanistan policy.

In a statement to The Associated Press, McCaul stated, “This administration guaranteed penalties if the Taliban reneged on its promise to defend the human rights of Afghan women and children.”

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the Taliban broke their word, and as a result, quick penalties are required.

Women wearing a burqa wait for free bread in front of a bakery in Kabul on January 24, 2022. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

Nearly everyone engaged voiced optimism that over the next weeks, discreet diplomacy spearheaded by U.N. officials may persuade the Taliban to change their stance, allowing female relief workers and assistance organisations as a whole to resume their tasks.

According to a U.S. official, U.N. and other representatives have daily meetings on the subject with the Taliban’s top leaders in Kabul, who have access to Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, and his cronies in the southern city of Kandahar.

Some others warn that the international community may spend years having little impact on the country’s leaders.

The goal of helping abandoned, battered women was evident in the interim. Masuda Sultan, an Afghan lady employed by the Abaad relief organization, said.

Sultan, speaking from Dubai, stated, “we intend to assist these women.” “They will perish if they don’t get treatment.”


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