Taliban say there’s no obstacles for UN work in Afghanistan

Islamabad: The Taliban’s chief spokesman said Wednesday there are no obstacles for the U.N. to function in Afghanistan, after they barred Afghan women from working at the global body.

Last week, the country’s Taliban rulers took a step further in the restrictive measures they have imposed on women and said that female Afghan staffers employed with the U.N. mission can no longer report for work. The ban is being actively enforced by the country’s intelligence agency, which reports to the Taliban’s leadership in Kandahar.

The U.N. says it cannot accept the decision, calling it unlawful and an unparalleled violation of women’s rights. It says women are crucial for the delivery of life-saving aid to millions of Afghans, and has instructed its national staff, male and female, to stay at home.

The decision to bar Afghan women from working at the U.N. was an internal matter and should be respected by all sides, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban-led government’s chief spokesman.

“This decision does not mean there is discrimination here, or that the activities of the United Nations are blocked. On the contrary, we are committed to all the rights of all our countrymen, taking into account their religious and cultural interests,” he said.

Aid agencies have been providing food, education and health care support to Afghans in the wake of the Taliban takeover and the economic collapse that followed it. But distribution has been severely affected by a Taliban edict banning women from working at non-governmental organizations — and, now, also at the U.N, allegedly because they weren’t wearing the hijab, or Islamic headscarf correctly, or following gender segregation.

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