Women who work in the Kabul city government must stay home, the interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said Sunday. The one exception is for women who cannot be replaced by men, including some members of the design and engineering departments and the attendants at public bathrooms for women. The Taliban “found it necessary to stop women from working for a while,” Hamdullah Namony, the interim Kabul mayor, said. “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.” Before the Taliban takeover of the country last month, a little less than one-third of the city’s 3,000 employees were women. It isn’t clear exactly how many are now being forced to stay home.
The move marked the latest sign of how the new Taliban-led government is quickly curtailing the rights and liberties of women in Afghanistan despite earlier promises that they had changed and would run a more inclusive administration. Female middle- and high school students were told earlier this week that they couldn’t resume their studies for now even though boys returned to school. That came shortly after female university students were told they could only study in gender-segregated classes and would have to adhere to a strict dress code. “It is becoming really, really troublesome,” Mabouba Suraj, who heads the Afghan Women’s Network, said. “Is this the stage where the girls are going to be forgotten?”
The Taliban government also got rid of what was once the Women’s Affairs Ministry on Friday. In its place, the government set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” to enforce Islamic law. A department with the same name was notorious for its role in enforcing strict religious rules when the Taliban was in power in the 1990s. A small group of women held a protest outside the ministry on Sunday but it only lasted for around 10 minutes. Taliban militants have been regularly breaking up the small women’s protests that have taken place in recent weeks.
International organizations are sounding the alarm over the current situation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) saying it is “deeply worried” for the future of schooling for girls. “Girls cannot, and must not, be left behind. It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays. For that, we need female teachers to resume teaching,” UNICEF said in a statement.