Afghan women navigate Challenges in neighboring nations amid Taliban’s ban on NGO work

The Taliban’s prohibition on women and girls working in aid agencies in Afghanistan has forced some to seek refuge in neighboring countries, such as Iran, to sustain their lives.

These women are urging the Taliban to lift the restrictions on women and girls, allowing them to return to Afghanistan. Faced with substantial challenges and limitations in their professional pursuits, Afghan women who were previously involved in humanitarian and advocacy work have resorted to alternative employment in host countries.

Nilab Omar Khel, a former humanitarian organization employee, highlighted the difficulties of continuing her work after the Taliban’s ban on women in NGOs. “I used to be a human rights and women’s rights activist. However, I was compelled to cease my activities and confine myself at home, leading to considerable mental and emotional distress. I had to seek medical help multiple times and take nerve and tranquilizer pills; it truly took a toll on my mental health,” she said.

Zainab Sadat, an Afghan migrant in Iran and former advocate for children’s rights and teacher, now working as a beautician, shared the economic challenges faced by her and fellow migrants due to a lack of employment opportunities in their respective fields. “I miss teaching the students. I face a bad economic situation,” Sadat said.

Qadria, who worked in a government agency before the Taliban’s takeover, came to Iran after being deprived of the right to work. However, she has struggled to find suitable employment.

Meanwhile, human rights activists in Iran express concern about the difficult conditions faced by Afghan migrants, particularly educated women, encountering economic challenges and mental health issues. Hadia Sahibzada, a human rights activist, stated, “As numerous educated girls have sought refuge in Iran due to threats from the Taliban, they encounter significant economic challenges here. The absence of job opportunities in their respective fields of education has led to economic hardships, making it difficult for them to fulfill their responsibilities. Regrettably, many girls are grappling with mental and psychological issues, causing distress for their families.”

Despite the difficulties, Afghan women working in migration express a strong desire to return to their homeland and see all restrictions lifted.