Kabul city government workers ordered to stay at home

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Kabul city government workers have been ordered to stay at home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the acting mayor of the Afghan capital said, 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, who 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.

Taliban fighters patrol a market in the old city of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Bernat Armangue / AP)

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 placards calling for women’s participation in public life.

“A society in which women are not active is (sic) a dead society,” read one panel.

“Why are (the Taliban) taking our rights? Said one of the protesters, Basira Tawana, 30.

“We are here for our rights and the rights of our daughters. “

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 in the city, acting mayor of Kabul, Hamdullah Namony, gave his first press conference since his appointment by the Taliban.

Taliban fighters ride in the back of a van (Felipe Dana / AP)
Taliban fighters ride in the back of a van (Felipe Dana / AP)

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.

Mr Namony said on Sunday that the workers 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.

Mr Namony did not specify 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.

Mr 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.

A Taliban fighter stands at the corner of a busy street (Felipe Dana / AP)
A Taliban fighter stands at the corner of a busy street (Felipe Dana / AP)

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.

As 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 choice but to turn to begging in the longer term,” he said.


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