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The Azadi Briefing: Taliban's NGO Ban Could Put Millions Of Afghans At Risk 

The Taliban's order will rob tens of thousands of Afghan women employed by local and foreign organizations of their livelihoods at a time when many Afghans are struggling for survival.
The Taliban's order will rob tens of thousands of Afghan women employed by local and foreign organizations of their livelihoods at a time when many Afghans are struggling for survival.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, a new RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban on December 24 banned all local and foreign nongovernmental organizations from employing Afghan women.

The order came from the Taliban’s economy minister, who said any NGO not complying with the edict will have its license revoked. The official said the ministry had received “serious complaints” about Afghan women working for NGOs not wearing the mandatory hijab, or Islamic head scarf, “correctly.”

The widely condemned order led major international aid agencies to halt their humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, including in the fields of health and education.

Why It's Important: The Taliban’s ban is the latest draconian restriction against women in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban seized power last year, it has severely curtailed women’s right to work and receive an education.

The order will rob tens of thousands of Afghan women employed by local and foreign organizations of their livelihoods at a time when many Afghans are struggling for survival. Many of the women are the sole breadwinners for their families. The Taliban’s ban will aggravate the economic crisis in Afghanistan, which is already reeling from mass unemployment and soaring inflation.

Foreign NGOs suspending their operations will also exacerbate the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, one of the biggest in the world. Humanitarian assistance, including the distribution of food aid, can only be run with the help of Afghan women. Many initiatives are also specifically aimed at helping women, the most vulnerable group in the country of around 40 million. The move could put millions of Afghan women and their children at greater risk of hunger and disease.

What's Next: UN officials said they have held "constructive" talks with the Taliban over resuming their operations. More discussions are planned in the weeks ahead. But it unclear if the Taliban will reverse its ban. The militant group has hardened its policies in recent months as the prospect of international recognition has dimmed. Many observers have said the hard-line Islamists are reestablishing their brutal regime of the 1990s, which was an international pariah.

The Week's Best Stories

Hundreds of Afghan men -- professors, fellow students, husbands, and fathers -- are publicly voicing their opposition to the Taliban's decision to ban women from universities. The rare show of support from men in the deeply patriarchal society speaks volumes about public discontent with the Taliban's draconian steps against women and girls.

Thousands of Afghan soldiers are living a desperate existence in Iran, where they sought refuge after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul. Many describe having to resort to manual labor and even rifling through garbage to make ends meet, while others say they have no choice but to put their fighting skills to work for a private Russian mercenary group that has sought to recruit them to join the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

What To Keep An Eye On

The Taliban’s police chief in the northeastern province of Badakhshan was killed in a car bombing on December 26. At least two of his bodyguards were also slain in the attack.

The bombing was claimed by the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) extremist group, a rival of the Taliban. IS-K released a video showing the moment the car bomb killed Abdulhaq Abu Omar.

Why It's Important: Omar is considered to be one of the most senior Taliban security officials to be killed since the militants returned to power.

IS-K militants killed Hamdullah Mukhlis, the head of the Kabul military corps, in November 2021. In August of this year, IS-K militants carried out a bomb attack on a religious seminary headed by Rahimullah Haqqani, a key Taliban ideologue. The cleric was killed along with his brother, son, and several close associates.

Omar’s killing underscores the continued threat posed by IS-K, despite efforts by the Taliban to eliminate the group. In a bid to undermine the Taliban’s rule, IS-K militants have carried out high-profile attacks in major cities, including against the country’s religious minorities. More recently, IS-K has staged attacks in Afghanistan against the interests of countries allied with the Taliban.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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