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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Ban on Afghan women to stay
Afghan women
Afghan women are generally forbidden from working
By Kate Clark in Kabul

The United Nations co-ordinator for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan, Eric de Mul, has left the country after failing to reach an agreement with the Taleban on the issue of Afghan women working.

He came to Kabul to discuss a recent Taleban edict banning the UN and aid agencies from employing Afghan female staff.


There's still a lot of resistance (against revoking the ban) from a certain group in the Taleban movement

UN official Eric de Mul

Speaking to reporters at Kabul airport, Mr de Mul confirmed that there has been disagreement amongst senior Taleban about the edict.

He was clearly disappointed to be leaving Afghanistan empty handed.

He said he had been hopeful after meetings at the beginning of the week with the Taleban ministries which the UN normally liaises with, such as health, planning and foreign affairs.

"I understand the group of people that have been in the meetings with us are still trying to convince others that it would be wise and useful to revoke or to go back to the situation that we had two weeks ago where women could go back to work," Mr de Mul said.

"They haven't been able to do that, so there's still a lot of resistance from a certain group in the Taleban movement."

The UN official said those still supporting the ban appeared to be the justice ministry and the ministry for promoting virtue and preventing vice.

They are generally considered to be controlled by the most conservative men in the movement.

Afghan women shopping
A strict dress code has been imposed on women
Taleban sources have said it was these ministers who first thought up the ban.

Mr de Mul said there was nothing more the UN could do until the Taleban reached agreement amongst themselves.

Forbidden

Afghan women are generally forbidden from working.

The Taleban believe that according to Islam, women should stay at home.

But they do employ them in the health sector, to guard female prisoners and to search female passengers at airports.

All women employed by foreign agencies have been given special permission to work in segregated environments.

The UN hopes the Taleban can check these agreements and allow their staff back to work.

Eric de Mul said the situation facing Afghans were difficult and getting worse because of the severe drought affecting the country.

He said the UN didn't want to cut programmes.

But it is in a difficult position, because its mandate requires it to treat men and women equally.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | South Asia
Aid worker 'expected trouble'
13 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban expel US aid worker
10 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban move against women workers
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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