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Taliban: Female Gov't Workers Stay Home09/19 09:31


   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- 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.

   The decision to prevent most female city workers from returning to their 
jobs is another sign that the Taliban, who overran Kabul last month, are 
enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises by some 
that they would be tolerant and inclusive. 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. It told female middle- and high school 
students that they could not return to school for the time being, while boys in 
those grades resumed studies this weekend. Female university students were 
informed that studies would take place in gender-segregated settings from now 
on, and that they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code. Under the 
U.S.-backed government deposed by the Taliban, university studies had been 
co-ed, for the most part.

   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, just over a dozen women staged a protest outside the ministry, 
holding up signs calling for the participation of women in public life. "A 
society in which women are not active is (sic) dead society," one sign read.

   The protest lasted for about 10 minutes. After a short verbal confrontation 
with a man, the women got into cars and left, as Taliban in two cars observed 
from nearby. Over the past months, Taliban fighters had broken up several 
women's protests 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 and government employee now forced to sit at home, said they would 
demand the Taliban re-open public spaces to women.

   "It's our right," she said. "We want to talk to them. We want to tell them 
that we have the same rights as they have."

   Most of the participants said they would try to leave the country if they 
had an opportunity.

   The explosion Sunday in Jalalabad was the second attack in two days to 
target the Taliban in the Islamic State group stronghold. The Taliban and IS 
extremists are enemies and fought each other even before the Taliban seized 
control of Afghanistan last month.

   Hospital officials in Jalalabad said they received the bodies of five people 
killed in the explosion. Among the dead were two civilians, including a child, 
and three others who according to witnesses were in a targeted border police 
vehicle and were believed to be Taliban.

   The Taliban were not immediately available for comment about possible 
casualties among their ranks.

   On Saturday, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in Jalalabad, 
killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said. There was no immediate 
claim of responsibility.

   With the Taliban facing major economic and security problems as they attempt 
to govern, a growing challenge by IS militants would further stretch their 

   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 

   Namony said the female employees have been ordered to stay home, pending a 
further decision. He said exceptions were made for women who could not be 
replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and 
the attendants of public toilets for women. Namony did not say how many female 
employees were forced to stay home.

   "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.

   Across Afghanistan, women in many areas have been told to stay home from 
jobs, both in the public and private sectors. However, the Taliban have not yet 
announced a uniform policy. The comments by the Kabul mayor were unusually 
specific and affected a large female work force that had been involved in 
running a sprawling city of more than 5 million people.

   Namony also said the new government has begun removing security barriers in 
Kabul, a city that has endured frequent bombing and shooting attacks over the 
years. Such barriers -- erected near ministries, embassies and private homes of 
politicians and warlords -- had been commonplace in Kabul for years.

   The mayor said private citizens would be charged for the work of taking down 
the barriers. While he said most barriers had been removed, reporters touring 
the city noted that barriers outside most government installations and 
embassies had been left in place.

   The Taliban have tried to present themselves as guarantors of security, in 
hopes that this will win them support from a public still widely suspicious of 
their intentions. Under the previous government, a rise in crime had been a 
major concern for ordinary Afghans.

   Perhaps the toughest challenge faced by the new Taliban rulers is the 
accelerated economic downturn. Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan 
was plagued by major problems, including large-scale poverty, drought and heavy 
reliance on foreign aid for the state budget.

   In a sign of growing desperation, street markets have sprung up in Kabul 
where residents are selling their belongings. Some of the sellers are Afghans 
hoping to leave the country, while others are forced to offer their meager 
belongings in hopes of getting money for the next meal.

   "Our people need help, they need jobs, they need immediate help, they are 
not selling their household belongings for choice here," said Kabul resident 
Zahid Ismail Khan, who was watching the activity in one of the impromptu 

   "For a short-term people might try to find a way to live, but they would 
have no other choice to turn to begging in a longer term," he said.

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