Taliban-ruled Kabul municipality to women workers: stay home

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Kabul city government workers have been ordered to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the government said on Sunday. acting mayor of the Afghan capital, detailing the latest restrictions imposed on women by the new Taliban leadership.

The decision to prevent most urban women workers from returning to work is another sign that the Taliban, which invaded Kabul last month, are carrying out their harsh take on Islam despite initial promises from some that they would be tolerant and inclusive. During their previous regime in the 1990s, the Taliban denied girls and women access to school, work and public life.

In recent days, the new Taliban government has issued several decrees canceling the rights of girls and women. He told middle school and high school girls that they can’t go back to school right now, while the boys in those classes resumed their studies over the weekend. University students were told that studies would henceforth be conducted in single-sex environments and that they must adhere to a strict Islamic dress code. Under the government supported by the United States and overthrown by the Taliban, university studies were mostly mixed.

On Friday, the Taliban shut down the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, replacing it with a ministry for “the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” and responsible for upholding Islamic law.

On Sunday, just over a dozen women demonstrated outside the ministry, holding up signs calling for women’s participation in public life. “A society in which women are not active is (sic) a dead society,” read one panel.

The demonstration lasted about 10 minutes. After a brief verbal confrontation with a man, the women got into cars and left, while the Taliban in two cars observed them nearby. In recent months, Taliban fighters have forcibly dispersed several women’s protests.

Elsewhere, around 30 women, many of them young, held a press conference in the basement of a house nestled in a neighborhood of Kabul. Marzia Ahmadi, a rights activist and government worker now forced to sit at home, said they would demand that the Taliban reopen public spaces to women.

“It’s our right,” she said. “We want to talk to them. We want to tell them that we have the same rights as them.

Most participants said they would try to leave the country if given the chance.

Also on Sunday, the acting mayor of Kabul, Hamdullah Namony, gave his first press conference since his appointment by the Taliban.

He said that before the Taliban takeover last month, just under a third of the city’s roughly 3,000 employees were women and had worked in all departments.

Namony said the employees were ordered to stay at home, pending a further decision. He said exceptions were made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in design and engineering departments and female public restroom attendants. Namony did not say how many employees were forced to stay at home.

“There are areas where men cannot do it, we have to ask our female staff to perform their duties, there is no alternative for that,” he said.

Across Afghanistan, women in many areas have been told not to work, in both the public and private sectors. However, the Taliban have yet to announce a uniform policy. The Kabul mayor’s comments were unusually precise and affected a large female workforce who had been involved in running a sprawling city of over 5 million people.

Namony also said the new government has started removing security barriers in Kabul, a city that has suffered frequent shelling and gunfire over the years. Such barriers – erected near ministries, embassies and the private residences of politicians and warlords – had been commonplace in Kabul for years.

The mayor said private citizens would be charged for the work of removing barriers. While he said most barriers have been removed, reporters touring the city noted that barriers outside most government facilities and embassies have been left in place.

The Taliban have tried to present themselves as the guarantors of security, in the hope that this will earn them the support of a public still largely suspicious of their intentions. Under the previous government, the increase in crime had been a major concern for ordinary Afghans.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge facing the new Taliban leadership is the accelerating economic downturn. Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan was plagued by major problems, including large-scale poverty, drought, and heavy reliance on foreign aid for the state budget.

A sign of growing desperation, street markets have sprung up in Kabul where locals sell their goods. Some of the vendors are Afghans hoping to leave the country, while others are forced to offer their meager possessions in the hope of securing money for the next meal.

“Our people need help, they need jobs, they need immediate help, they are not selling their belongings here,” said Zahid Ismail Khan, a resident of Kabul, who was observing the activity in one of the impromptu markets.

“In the short term, people might try to find a way to live, but they would have no other choice to turn to begging in the longer term,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Istanbul contributed.


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