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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Taleban vice raid closes hospital
Women in Afghanistan
The Taleban's policy on women has been criticised
Taleban religious police have closed down an Italian-funded hospital in Afghanistan because the male and female staff were reported to be eating together.

Reports say armed members of the religious police entered the hospital in the Afghan capital and beat up the staff during a lunch break.

The hospital patients have now been discharged.

Male and female staff are apparently segregated by a curtain in the dining room, according to hospital members.

Taleban soldier
The hospital treated victims of the war
But reports quoted witnesses saying the religious police accused male hospital staff of dining with female colleagues.

"The religious police entered the hospital while we were having our lunch, scattered around and ordered us not to move, and then they started beating and harassing the staff," the AFP news agency quoted a witness as saying.

The 120-bed hospital was opened earlier this year to treat war victims.

Its staff also included several western doctors.

Strict laws

The Taleban movement, which swept into power in Afghanistan in 1996, has introduced a harsh interpretation of Islam which is particularly severe on women.

Women have to be veiled from head-to-toe, and are banned from schools and from most outdoor jobs.

Enforcing the strict regulations is the Ministry for Fostering Virtue and Suppressing Vice, which is directly under the Taleban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Last year, an American female aid worker was expelled from Afghanistan on charges of spying and carrying out anti-Taleban propaganda.

She had been running a small agency for poor women and children.

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
17 May 01 | South Asia
Taleban shuts more Afghan schools
17 May 01 | South Asia
'Liberty' for Afghan women
16 Aug 00 | South Asia
Taleban shuts women's bakeries
11 Jan 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan: Women under Taleban rule
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