Afghan women outraged by new Taliban restrictions on work
KABUL, Sept 20: Fears were mounting in Afghanistan on Monday as the Taliban tightened their grip on women's rights, slashing access to work and denying girls the right to secondary school education.
After pledging a softer version of their brutal and repressive regime of the 1990s, the Islamic fundamentalists have been stripping away at freedoms one month after seizing power.
"I may as well be dead," said one woman, who was sacked from her senior role at the foreign ministry.
"I was in charge of a whole department and there were many women working with me... now we have all lost our jobs," she told AFP, insisting she not be identified for fear of reprisals.
The acting mayor of the capital Kabul has said any municipal jobs currently held by women would be filled by men.
While the country's new rulers have not issued a formal policy outright banning women from working, directives by individual officials have amounted to their exclusion from the workplace.
That came after the education ministry ordered male teachers and students back to secondary school at the weekend, but made no mention of the country's millions of women educators and girl pupils.
The all-male government on Friday also appeared to shut down the former administration's ministry of women's affairs and replaced it with one that earned notoriety during their first stint in power for enforcing religious doctrine.
Many Afghan women fear they will never find meaningful employment.
On Monday, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus landed in Kabul ahead of talks with the Taliban leadership, as the country's already impoverished health system struggles to function following the suspension of aid.
And in the eastern province of Nangarhar, local journalists told AFP there had been at least two explosions late Monday afternoon and that up to three Taliban may have been killed.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a series of weekend blasts in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar and the heartland of their Afghanistan chapter.
Although still marginalised, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers, though mostly limited to large cities. -AFP