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Major international aid groups suspend work in Afghanistan after Taliban bans women from work

Leaders of Save the Children, CARE, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee have ceased operations in Afghanistan.

Published: December 25, 2022 2:31pm

Updated: December 25, 2022 4:15pm

Four major international groups suspended activities in Afghanistan on Sunday after the Taliban banned women from being employed by nongovernmental organizations as part of the fundamentalist group's sweeping crackdown on women's rights. 

Leaders of Save the Children, CARE and the Norwegian Refugee Council wrote in a joint statement that the Taliban's new rule means they must suspend operations in Afghanistan as they cannot effectively reach those in need without female employees. Thousands of Afghans will lose their jobs as a result, the three groups said.

The International Rescue Committee, which has worked in Afghanistan since 1998, released a statement independently about its decision to cease operations. More than 8,000 people, including 3,000 women, were employed by the committee in Afghanistan.

The Taliban's Ministry of Economy told all licensed NGOs in Afghanistan on Saturday to stop female employees from coming into work. The ministry cited "serious complaints regarding not observing the Islamic hijab and other Islamic Emirate's laws and regulations" as its reason, CNN reported.

The Taliban last week banned girls of all ages from attending school one day after indefinitely suspending classes for women in universities. Female staff, including teachers, were fired, and women were barred from visiting mosques or attending religious classes, the officials announced while laying out the most sweeping restrictions on women since taking power in August 2021.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has not ceased operations in Afghanistan but said Sunday that it is "concerned" about the announcement as it employs hundreds of women.

UNICEF condemned the Taliban's decision as a "blatant violation of obligations under international humanitarian law and the most fundamental human rights of women." The United Nations agency did not say it would stop working in Afghanistan.