'Ngos Should Negotiate With Taliban Leaders'

(MENAFN- Swissinfo)

Despite the Taliban's recent decision to ban all women from working in NGOs, humanitarian aid must continue to flow to Afghanistan. This means aid agencies have to negotiate with the Taliban, argues Tooba Neda Safi, an Afghan journalist based in Lausanne.

This content was published on January 10, 2023 - 17:00 January 10, 2023 - 17:00

Tooba Neda Safi is an Afghan-born journalist and women rights activist living in Switzerland. She mainly writes on Afghanistan, especially on the conditions of women under the Taliban. Her writing has appeared in Geneva Solutions among others.

In August 2021, when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal from the country of the United States army, they systematically began erasing women from the public space.

On December 23, 2022, in their latest restriction on women's rights, the Taliban banned women from working in domestic and foreign NGOs in Afghanistan. The decision could have a significant humanitarian impact on millions of vulnerable people in the country, which would no longer have access to aid.

The order comes only days after the Taliban excluded female students from universities across the country.



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NGOs were quick to respond. On December 25, organisations such as Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE suspended their operations in Afghanistan. Other NGOs warned they would follow suit.

It is vital to find a solution and pressure the Taliban to back down on their latest decision. NGOs' officials should negotiate with Taliban leaders. In the meantime, they should continue to operate with their male staff.

It is clear that the Taliban have taken women hostage against demands they have from the international community. The regime is using women and their right to work and have access to education as a commodity they can exchange.

But not all Taliban officials agree on this policy. The international community should communicate with these first.



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Humanitarian needs

Suspending aid is risky and will have a significant negative impact on the most vulnerable people in the country.

According to reports, more than 73% of Afghans live below the poverty line; most of them are children and women.

On December 26, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that all in all, the UN and its partners, including national and international NGOs, are“helping more than 28 million Afghans who depend on humanitarian aid to survive”.

The families of the hundreds of women who can now no longer work in Afghanistan must be added to this number.

Many such as Salma, who was working with an NGO in Kabul after losing her job when the Taliban came to power, will be forced to quit her current occupation. She is the sole provider for her three children.

“I used to work in one of the ministries, in the financial department. When the Taliban came to power, I lost my job. We got through the tough days. I sold most of the household items in order to feed my children. Then I started borrowing money,' she told me this week.

Crackdown expected

The crackdown on women's rights was predictable. Even if the Talban waited 16 months before banning women from the universities and NGOs, they are, fundamentally, a radical group with an ideology that has never changed since the 1990s. For them, their opinions and beliefs are impassable red lines.



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The new regime needed to strengthen its rule before coming down on civil society. The Taliban also knew that the level of political consciousness is higher than when they last took power in the 1990s. Since then, women have become more aware of their civil rights. For the Taliban, it was simply not easy to destroy 20 years of progress in one day.

Had the Taliban implemented all these restrictions at the beginning of their rule, they might have faced a spontaneous wave of popular uprisings.

Furthermore, the government did not have enough domestic funds to manage the financial crisis that came with the regime change.

But, after silencing the local political opposition, suppressing women's rights activists and having access to financial support from the international community, the Taliban began constricting civil rights, especially those of women.

No example of such widespread violation of women's rights and deprivation of women can be found in any other country in the world.

What now?

What will happen to a country on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, if all the hand-to-mouth needs of millions of people are not met?

If possible, in emergency cases, some female employees can work informally and make online contacts with their office.

In February 2022, a ten-member Taliban delegation invited by Geneva Call, an NGO, made promises in Geneva agreeing to“facilitate humanitarian action in Afghanistan, to ensure the protection of humanitarian workers and aid, to promote the full respect and protection of healthcare facilities as well as transport and staff, including female workers”.

This is the right time to show them the signed agreement and ask them, why...?



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Articles in this story

  • switzerland condemns taliban decision to ban women from universities
  • swiss ngo in afghanistan says ban on women is red line
  • inside geneva: aid without women in afghanistan
  • swiss call on taliban to reconsider ban on women to work for ngos
  • listen to our podcast, inside geneva


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