Fear is mounting for women and girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban told working women to stay at home, admitting they were not safe in the presence of the militant group’s soldiers.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said at a news conference on Tuesday that women should not go to work for their own safety, undermining the group’s efforts to convince international observers that the group would be more tolerant towards women than when they were last in power.
The instruction came the same day that the World Bank halted funding in Afghanistan, citing concerns about the safety of women, and within hours of the UN calling for a “transparent and prompt investigation” into reports of human rights abuses since the Taliban takeover.
Mujahid said the guidance to stay at home would be temporary, and would allow the group to find ways to ensure that women are not “treated in a disrespectful way” or “God forbid, hurt.” He admitted the measure was necessary because the Taliban’s soldiers “keep changing and are not trained.”
“We are happy for them to enter the buildings but we want to make sure they do not face any worries,” he said.
“Therefore, we have asked them to take time off from work until the situation gets back to a normal order and women related procedures are in place, then they can return to their jobs once it’s announced.”
When last in power between 1996 and 2001 the militant group banned women from the workplace, stopped them from leaving the home unaccompanied and forced them to cover their entire bodies.
The group has insisted its new era in charge will be more moderate, but Taliban leaders have refused to guarantee women’s rights will not be stripped back and many have already faced violence.