Afghanistan: UN says 3,300 staff stay home over Taliban ban on women

The United Nations said that 3,330 men and women employees from Afghanistan stayed home for a second day Thursday to protest the Taliban’s ban on UN female staff working in the country as it continued to press for the decision to be reversed.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Taliban’s action and pushed its calls for overturning the ban.

Addressing a press conference, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated the UN’s insistence that all UN staff are needed to deliver life-saving aid to millions and stressed again that “Afghan women will not be replaced by men.”

He said the United Nations doesn’t want to get into a situation where it replaces Afghan women with international women, who are not banned from working in the country.

Dujarric added that culturally it is always better to have nationals from a country delivering aid to their local population.

“The UN has a staff of about 3,900 in Afghanistan, including approximately 3,300 Afghans and 600 international personnel. The total also includes 600 Afghan women and 200 women from other countries,” he said.

Associated Press reports that at the closed UN Security Council meeting on the Taliban ban, members were briefed by the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, who led talks Wednesday with the Taliban’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to call for a reversal of its decision.

The current council president, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters afterward that “everybody was appalled by the decision the Taliban made.”

“The question is how to approach it, and we agreed to work on a product by the council … that would be useful and balanced,” he said.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood said the Biden administration sees the ban “basically as another effort by the Taliban to erase Afghan women and girls from society.”

The United Nations on Wednesday called the ban an “unparalleled” violation of women’s rights, unlawful under international law, and unacceptable to the 193-member international organization.

The Taliban decision triggered global reactions from the international community and international organizations.