Women working for Kabul government are ordered to stay home in latest evidence that the ‘Taliban 2.0’ haven’t changed their ways

  • Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home
  • It comes just two days after the Taliban banned girls from secondary schools
  • The moves sparked protests in Kabul as women resisted the new restrictions
  • They undermine the Taliban’s claims that they’ve softened their hard-line stance 
  • The Taliban are also contending with impending economic collapse with the majority of Afghans residing in poverty amid droughts and lack of income

Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men the interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said Sunday. 

The decision to prevent most female city workers from returning to their jobs is another sign that the Taliban, who overran Kabul last month, are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite their initial promises they had softened their stances.

In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life, but spokesmen in recent weeks went on a PR offensive, declaring they are ‘not the same’ as the Taliban of 20 years ago. 

The latest restriction implemented against women by the new Taliban rulers suggests this is not the case, and comes just two days after the new hard-line government excluded girls from returning to secondary school and replaced Afghanistan’s women’s ministry with an all-male ‘vice and virtue’ department. 

The stay at home order prompted another female-led protest outside the ministry after several demonstrations broke out following the banning of girls from secondary school on Friday.

Women were forcibly restrained during protests that were sparked just over a week ago when the Taliban announced an all-male government cabinet. 

Afghan women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul after female government employees were told to stay home

An Afghan woman passes by the building of former Ministry of Women Affairs which is now replaced with the conservative ‘Ministry of Vice and Virtue’ implemented by the Taliban this weekend

Afghan women activists gathered to protest against Taliban restrictions, but female protesters have been beaten and whipped previously by Taliban soldiers

In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life, but spokesmen in recent weeks went on a PR offensive, declaring they are ‘not the same’ as the Taliban of 20 years ago 

In recent days, the new Taliban government issued several decrees rolling back the rights of girls and women. 

It told female middle and high school students that they could not return to school for the time being, while boys in those grades resumed studies this weekend. 

Female university students were informed that although they could continue their course, studies would take place in gender-segregated settings from now on, and that they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code. 

Under the US-backed government deposed by the Taliban, university studies had for the most part allowed men and women to study together without restrictions.

On Friday, the Taliban shut down the Women’s Affairs Ministry, replacing it with a ministry for the ‘propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice’ tasked with enforcing Islamic law.

On Sunday, just over a dozen women staged a protest outside the ministry, holding up signs calling for the participation of women in public life. ‘A society in which women are not active is a dead society,’ one sign read.

The protest lasted for about 10 minutes. After a short verbal confrontation with a man, the women got into cars and left, as Taliban in two cars observed from nearby.

Over the past months, Taliban fighters had broken up several women’s protests by force.

Elsewhere, about 30 women, many of them young, held a news conference in a basement of a home tucked away in a Kabul neighbourhood. 

Marzia Ahmadi, a rights activist and government employee now forced to sit at home, said they would demand the Taliban re-open 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 they have.’

Most of the participants said they would try to leave the country if they had an opportunity.

On Sunday, interim Kabul Mayor Hamdullah Namony gave his first news conference since being appointed by the Taliban.

He said that before the Taliban takeover last month, just under one-third of close to 3,000 city employees were women, and that they had worked in all departments.

Namony said the female employees have been ordered to stay home, pending a further decision. He said exceptions were made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and the attendants of public toilets for women. 

Namony did not say how many female employees were forced to stay home: ‘There are some areas that men can´t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfill their duties, there is no alternative for it,’ he said.

Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said Sunday that many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers. (AP Photo)

Though some women have welcomed the Taliban rule, many others oppose the harsh implementation of Sharia law

Namony also said the new government has begun removing security barriers in Kabul, a city that has endured frequent bombing and shooting attacks over the years. Such barriers – erected near ministries, embassies and private homes of politicians and warlords – had been commonplace in Kabul for years.

Perhaps the toughest challenge faced by the new Taliban rulers is the accelerated 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.

In a sign of growing desperation, street markets have sprung up in Kabul where residents are selling their belongings. Some of the sellers are Afghans hoping to leave the country, while others are forced to offer their meagre belongings in hopes of getting money for the next meal.

‘Our people need help, they need jobs, they need immediate help, they are not selling their household belongings for choice here,’ said Kabul resident Zahid Ismail Khan, who was watching the activity in one of the impromptu markets.

‘For a short-term people might try to find a way to live, but they would have no other choice to turn to begging in a longer term,’ he said.

The decision to prevent most female city workers from returning to their jobs is another sign that the Taliban, who overran Kabul last month, are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite their initial promises they had softened their stances 

Meanwhile, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the eastern provincial city of Jalalabad

Hospital officials said five people were killed in the second such deadly blast in as many days in the Islamic State stronghold of Jalalabad

Meanwhile, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the eastern provincial city of Jalalabad, and hospital officials said five people were killed in the second such deadly blast in as many days in the Islamic State stronghold. 

The Taliban and IS extremists are enemies and fought each other even before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last month.

Hospital officials in Jalalabad said they received the bodies of five people killed in the explosion. 

Among the dead were two civilians, including a child, and three others who according to witnesses were in a targeted border police vehicle and were believed to be Taliban.

The Taliban were not immediately available for comment about possible casualties among their ranks.

On Saturday, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in Jalalabad, killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

With the Taliban facing major economic and security problems as they attempt to govern, a growing challenge by IS militants would further stretch their resources. 

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