Following what it said was a ban by the Taliban rulers against female employment in the multinational organization, the United Nations said it was assessing its mission in Afghanistan.
Commenting on last week’s ban, the UN on Tuesday described it as unlawful under international law and the UN Charter. It said that, as a result, it could not comply.
The body asked all its employees to stop reporting to the office, except in very specific cases.
The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Roza Otunbayeva initiated an operational review until May 5, hinting that the UN might suspend operations.
Strongly condemning the ban, the UN accused the Taliban of forcing it into making “an appalling choice between staying and delivering in support of the Afghan people and standing by the norms and principles we are duty-bound to uphold.”
The body stressed that the Taliban will be responsible for any negative consequence of the ban for the people of Afghanistan.
It said it would conduct the necessary consultations, make required operational adjustments and accelerate contingency plans for possible outcomes during the operational review.
The UN employs around 400 women inside the country, the French AFP news agency reported.
Many NGOs announced their departure from Afghanistan after the Taliban first announced restrictions on female employees in December, but the Taliban only extended the ban to the UN specifically last week, without commenting further.
Female healthcare workers, crucial in providing care for other women, were thought to be the only other exception to the rule back when the UN was also exempt.
Expanding bans on women
The Taliban has been gradually expanding its bans against the Afghan female population since it captured Kabul in August 2021. At the time of its takeover, in its first outreach to the international community, the Taliban had claimed it would not infringe on women’s rights as “enshrined within Islamic law.”
Now, women are banned from receiving education past a certain age and are required to cover up outside of home. They also cannot travel without a male guardian or work in governmental jobs, as well as with domestic and international nongovernmental groups.
The conditions are growingly reminiscent of those during the Taliban’s first stint at governance in the 1990s, which ended with the US invasion in 2001.
The UN said the latest ban came in line with other “discriminatory” measures “with the goal of severely restricting women and girls’ participation in most areas of public and daily life in Afghanistan.”