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Aid agency chief: IEA says guidelines on female NGO staff resuming work close to finalization

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(Last Updated On: May 24, 2023)

The head of a major international aid agency said Tuesday that key Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan officials told him in meetings that they are close to finalizing guidelines that will allow Afghan women to resume working for nongovernmental organizations.

But they were unable to give a timeline or details when pressed, he said.

The IEA last December barred Afghan women from working at NGOs, allegedly because they were not wearing the hijab correctly and were not observing gender segregation rules.

In April, they said this ban extended to U.N. offices and agencies in Afghanistan. There are exemptions in some sectors like health care and education, AP reported.

Days before the NGO order came into effect, the IEA barred women from universities, having already stopped girls from going to school beyond sixth grade. Last November, women were banned from public spaces, including parks.

In January, the IEA said they were working on guidelines for women to return to work at NGOs. They previously said they were working on guidelines so that girls and young women could return to education but these have yet to materialize.

Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is visiting Afghanistan for the second time in five months to persuade the country’s IEA rulers to reverse the ban on the organization’s female staff.

Egeland met the Kandahar deputy governor, Maulvi Hayatullah Mubarak, who he described as having “direct contact with and links” to the IEA’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, who ordered the education and NGO bans. He also met the head of Kandahar’s Economy Directorate, Mawlawi Abdul Salam Baryali.

“The authorities in Kandahar have a special position since the emir (Akhundzada) sits in Kandahar,” he told The Associated Press. “Whatever agreement we can get in Kandahar can have a national impact. These guidelines are close to being finalized and should soon be put into effect, that is what was conveyed.”

Egeland said he pressed the officials for a timeline and clarity on the word “soon” but they didn’t elaborate.

He was told the IEA couldn’t guarantee anything as everything needed to be put to the supreme leadership. They also told him they had been working on the NGO matter for months and that most issues have been resolved.

The guidelines are likely to cover dress codes, gender segregation in the workplace, and a chaperone for travel. Egeland warned that it would not be a lifting of the ban if the guidelines went beyond that.

The Norwegian Refugee Council stands to lose 40% of its funding for Afghanistan because of the bans on female employment and education, he said.

He said the potential loss meant a 40% drop in the number of people reached.

The agency has also laid off 220 of its 1,500 workforce and closed five offices. But it retains male and female Afghan staff who are unable to work because of the bans. The agency is not deploying male-only teams.

“I believe their promises,” he said of the IEA. “But I can only accept the facts.”

Abdul Rahman Habib, a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, said it was too early to talk about the NGO guidelines.

“If it comes from another source we are not responsible for it,” he said. “We are the only source for confirmation. When the time is right we will announce it officially.”

The IEA have repeatedly told senior humanitarian officials visiting Afghanistan since December that the NGO restrictions are temporary suspensions, not a ban.

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First cargo flight takes place from UAE to Balkh since IEA takeover

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

For the first time since the Islamic Emirate’s takeover, a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport in Mazar-e-Sharif city was carried out through the air corridor, officials said.

The airport officials said that sixteen tons of commercial goods, including electronic devices related to Bayat Power company were transferred from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif city.

“This is the first time that a flight from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif has been made through the air corridor; discussions with traders are ongoing and we hope to keep this corridor active in the future,” said Abdullah Motmaen, director of customs of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport.

Meanwhile, Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Investment officials stress the beginning of the general process of transferring commercial commodities by air corridor.

“In the transfer of commercial goods, air corridor is so important,” said Asadullah Asadi, head of Balkh’s chamber of commerce and investment.

Earlier, through the air corridor of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport, Pine nuts and other commercial items were exported to the countries of the region.

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IEA will attend future UN meetings if demands accepted: deputy PM

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Mawlavi Abdul Kabir has called the recent decision of the United Nations for the participation of the Islamic Emirate at the second Doha meeting on Afghanistan “unfair” and said that if the demands of the IEA are accepted by the UN and countries in future meetings, the acting government will participate on behalf of Afghanistan, the deputy PM’s office said in a statement.

Abdul Kabir made these statements on Thursday at a graduation ceremony in Kabul.

Kabir added that “Afghanistan, as an independent country and Islamic Emirate as a legitimate Islamic system, assures all its neighbors and the international community that the acting government is striving for economic and development cooperation based on a balanced and moderate policy.”

He also stressed that there would be no threat to anyone from Afghanistan.

While fighting against drugs and corruption, sustainable stability can only be guaranteed under the rule of the Islamic Emirate, which Afghans and the international community have understood, according to the statement.

He stated that with the arrival of the Islamic Emirate, the national budget was prepared from internal revenues for the first time, and in addition to paying the expenses of civil administrations and development projects, the expenses of the Islamic Army and security departments are also paid from the national budget.

The second meeting of special representatives of countries regarding Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday of this week in Doha, in which the delegation of the Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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Strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan exist: Thomas West

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Thomas West, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, described the recent UN meeting in Doha as productive, emphasizing a strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan, including the desire to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, and work.

“No country wants to see the emergence of a terrorism threat from Afghanistan. All want to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, work, and public life,” West stated in a post about the conference.

West also noted the international commitment to the Afghan people, highlighting the effort to provide humanitarian aid to over 26 million Afghans last year. However, he expressed concerns about sustainability and the need for an approach that empowers Afghans economically.

The envoy acknowledged the Islamic Emirate’s enforcement of a poppy ban, which the UNODC reported resulted in a 95% reduction in cultivation. He underscored the need for more coordination in supporting alternative crops for farmers and recovery for addicts.

West appreciated the participation of Afghan civil society members, both from within and outside Afghanistan, discussing economic needs, human rights, and the importance of continued engagement, including with the Taliban.

Regarding future steps, West welcomed the continuation of the current meeting format and calls for a UN-led process to develop a roadmap for Afghanistan’s full integration into the international community. “The Afghan people’s well-being, and the international community’s shared interests, must guide this work,” he concluded.

The second meeting of special representatives for Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday in Doha. The Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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