KABUL — Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the interim mayor of Afghanistan‘s capital said Sunday, detailing the latest restrictions on women by the new Taliban rulers.
Witnesses, meanwhile, said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the eastern provincial city of Jalalabad, and hospital officials said five people were killed in the second such deadly blast in as many days in the Islamic State stronghold.
Another sign that the Taliban have taken over Kabul is that they are now imposing their strict interpretation of Islam on city workers despite promises from some to be inclusive and tolerant. In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.
In recent days, the new Taliban government issued several decrees rolling back the rights of girls and women. The new Taliban government informed female high-school and middle school students that they couldn’t return to school at the moment, while boys in those grades returned to school this weekend. The university informed female students that their studies would be in gender-segregated environments and that they had to adhere to strict Islamic dress codes. Previously, university education was co-ed under the Taliban-backed U.S. government.
On Friday, the Taliban shut down the Women’s Affairs Ministry, replacing it with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” and tasked with enforcing Islamic law.
On Sunday, a few dozen women protested outside the ministry holding signs demanding women’s participation in public life. One sign stated that a society where women are not actively involved is (sic), dead society.
The protest lasted for about 10 minutes. After a brief verbal exchange with a man the women got in cars and fled. Two Taliban cars were nearby. In the months that followed, Taliban fighters had stopped several women from protesting by force.
Elsewhere, about 30 women, many of them young, held a news conference in a basement of a home tucked away in a Kabul neighborhood. Marzia Ahmadi (a rights activist who is also a government employee) said that they will demand that the Taliban open public spaces for women.
“It is our right,” she stated. We want to speak to them. We want them to know that we have the same rights and responsibilities as them. “
Most participants stated that they would leave the country if given the chance.
The explosion Sunday in Jalalabad was the second attack in two days to target the Taliban in the Islamic State group stronghold. Both the Taliban and ISIS extremists were enemies. They fought each others even before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month.
Hospital officials from Jalalabad claimed they received five bodies in the blast. Two civilians, including one child, were among the victims. Three others were also killed in the explosion, according to witnesses. They were traveling in a vehicle belonging to border police and are believed to have been Taliban. The Taliban could not be reached for comment regarding possible casualties within their ranks.
On Saturday, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in Jalalabad, killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said. No one claimed immediate responsibility. With the Taliban facing serious economic and security issues as they try to govern, an increasing threat from IS militants will further strain their resources.
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Also on Sunday, interim Kabul Mayor Hamdullah Namony gave his first news conference since being appointed by the Taliban.
He said that before the Taliban takeover last month, just under one-third of close to 3,000 city employees were women, and that they had worked in all departments.
Namony stated that the female employees were to remain home until a decision is made. Namony said that exceptions were made to accommodate women who couldn’t be replaced by men. This included those in the engineering and design departments as well as the attendants at public toilets for females. Namony didn’t say how many female employees were made to leave.
“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,” he said.