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World News | Taliban’s ban on female aid workers poses huge dilemma for US

World News | Taliban’s ban on female aid workers poses huge dilemma for US

WASHINGTON, Wash., Jan. 14 (AP) — For one idle worker at Abaad, an aid group in Kabul that helps battered Afghan women, it’s not just her clients but her female colleagues who take on To the horrified and often tearful phone calls.

The Taliban’s Dec. 24 ban on the employment of women by aid organizations has paralyzed deliveries that have helped millions of Afghans survive and threatened humanitarian services across the country. Another consequence of the ban is that thousands of women working for such organizations in the war-torn country face a loss of income and are desperate to support their families.

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The ban poses one of the biggest policy challenges for the United States and others in Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in August 2021 opened the door for a Taliban takeover. These countries face the daunting task of crafting an international response that neither further exacerbates the plight of millions of aid-dependent Afghans, nor succumbs to the Taliban’s crackdown on women.

The United Nations estimates that 85 percent of Afghan aid NGOs have partially or fully ceased operations because of the ban, the latest move by the Taliban to push women out of public life.

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Abaad is one of the companies that has suspended its work. Its female staff provide support and counseling to women who have experienced rape, battery, forced marriage or other domestic abuse.

Female clients told Abaad staff that without the organization’s help they feared they would end up on the streets of Kabul. For the worker herself and tens of thousands like her across Afghanistan, who are relying on paychecks to survive an economic collapse, aid officials say 97 percent of the population is now poor or at risk of poverty.

A colleague told her she was contemplating suicide.

Aid workers and others interviewed said they hoped the United States, the United Nations and others would support them in persuading the Taliban to ease the ban.

“That’s what we’re asking for. They should find solutions, find ways to support the people of Afghanistan,” she said. She spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for her safety.

Several major global aid organizations that have suspended operations are urging U.N. aid agencies to do the same. They asked the Biden administration to use its influence to ensure that the international community stood firm.

The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor to Afghanistan. It also has an enduring interest in quelling security threats from extremist groups in Afghanistan, one of the tasks it hopes to maintain some limited relationship with the Taliban.

A U.S. official involved in the discussions predicted that the international community’s eventual response would range between suspending all aid operations, which the official said would be inhumane and ineffective, to the other extreme of total acquiescence to the Taliban’s ban.

One proposal the administration is considering would be to halt all but life-saving aid to Afghans, according to another U.S. and nongovernment official familiar with the discussions.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing deliberations publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, aid group officials and analysts point out that it will be difficult to narrow the scope of life-saving aid. Food aid, of course. But how have other forms of support, such as maternal care, helped cut maternal mortality in Afghanistan by more than half since the 1990s?

Leading aid NGOs say that without female workers, they would not be able to effectively reach women and children, who make up 75 percent of the affected population. This is because of conservative customs in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s prohibition of non-sexual contact between men and women.

“Our suspension is a necessary action,” said Anastasia Moran, a senior official for humanitarian policy at the International Rescue Committee. “It’s not a punishment. It’s not a withdrawal of service. It’s not a negotiating tactic.”

The Taliban’s crackdown is repeating what happened when they first came to power in the mid-1990s, when successive decrees drove women out of school, work, aid work and, increasingly, back home. The Taliban leader then eventually ordered the home to paint the windows black so passers-by could not see the women inside. It leaves women and children in female-headed households with little access to money or help to sustain themselves.

The US invasion followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, which ended the first era of Taliban rule. Both the Biden administration and aid groups have expressed their determination to avoid a repeat of the fragmented, competition-driven and often ad hoc international response to Taliban atrocities in the 1990s, including the crackdown on women at the time.

Members of the UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday to consider the international response after 11 of the 15 member states reiterated the council’s demand for “unhindered access for humanitarian actors regardless of gender”.

The humanitarian crisis sparked by the Taliban ban comes at a politically sensitive time for Biden, a Republican who now leads the House of Representatives and has pledged to investigate the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul, the foreign policy veteran who heads the new House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the crackdown on women was part of the “catastrophic” consequences of the U.S. withdrawal. McCall. R-Texas said his committee will ask administration officials to respond to questions about their handling of Afghanistan policy.

In a statement to The Associated Press, McCall said: “This administration is committed to reneging on the Taliban’s commitment to uphold the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan at their own risk. Unfortunately, seeing the Taliban violate that commitment is not Odd, now results have to be delivered quickly.”

Nearly everyone involved expressed hope that quiet diplomacy led by U.N. officials in the coming weeks would lead the Taliban to soften their stance and fully restore women aid workers and aid organizations to their duties.

U.N. and other officials are meeting daily in Kabul with the top Taliban leader on the matter, and they have access to the top Taliban leader, Haibatollah Akhonzada, and his associates in the southern city of Kandahar, a U.S. official said.

Some warn that the international community may have had little leverage over the years over Afghanistan’s rulers.

At the same time, the mission of those who help isolated, abused women is clear. Masuda Sultan, an Afghan woman, said she also works with the Abaad aid organization.

“Our goal is to help these women,” Sultan said in Dubai. “If they don’t get help, they will die.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the body of content may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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