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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Taleban move against women workers
Afghan women
Many families depend on income from women
The Taleban authorities in Afghanistan have ordered the UN and aid agencies to dismiss all Afghan women working for them.

Aid agency officials said the order could cause serious problems as many use hundreds of local women to implement their community projects.

Afghan woman
Some sectors were exempt from the ban
The BBC Afghanistan correspondent says the order marks a sharp policy shift towards the conservative wing of the Taleban movement which would affect thousands of families dependent on women's income.

The move followed the arrest at the weekend of an American aid worker, Mary MacMakin, in Kabul.

Aid agencies are now trying to negotiate to keep their local female staff.

Ms MacMakin, who is her seventies, remains in detention along with her staff, although nine male colleagues have now been released.

Carpet project

Ms MacMakin, who has worked on and off in Afghanistan for some 40 years, runs a small project known as Parsa (Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan) which helps widows and other vulnerable women in Kabul.

Projects include knitting pullovers and making carpets.

A US embassy spokesman in Islamabad said reports of Ms MacMakin's arrest were being taken seriously and the United Nations had been alerted.

"We've heard reports that an American citizen has been arrested in Kabul. We're concerned and are looking into it and we have asked the United Nations for assistance."

When the Taleban came to power it ordered all women to stay at home, but it gradually relaxed their policy and granted special permission for some women to work.

Most of those allowed to work did so in the health sector.

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See also:

03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
03 Aug 98 | Analysis
Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed
11 Jan 00 | South Asia
Afghanistan: Women under Taleban rule
08 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Afghanistan: Through veiled eyes
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