Aid agency chief: IEA says guidelines on female NGO staff resuming work close to finalization
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.
IEA, Iranian officials hold talks after border clash
Following the border clash in Nimroz province on Saturday, officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Iran have held talks in a bid to reduce tensions.
Two Iranian border guards and one IEA guard were killed after the shooting that happened near a border post in Nimroz.
Tehran and Kabul have said that peace has returned to the area and both sides have pledged to avoid such incidents.
IEA has emphasized that Afghanistan does not want war with any of its neighbors and wants to have friendly relations with Iran.
“The Islamic Emirate believes in talks regarding any issue that happens. So this is a very good option. We want that all the issues that exist or the concerns that we have are addressed through talks,” said Bilal Karimi, IEA’s deputy spokesman.
Iran’s interior minister also downplayed the clash and said that the border gate of the Silk Bridge has been reopened and economic exchanges between the two countries have resumed.
“There was a brief conflict and it was resolved. Negotiations were also held with the Taliban (IEA). Now we have no problem. The border is open and peaceful,” Ahmad Wahidi, Iran’s Minister of Interior, said.
Iran’s military officials also said that such incidents should be prevented.
“The meeting took place. Now we have come to see what the parties should do so that this kind of unfortunate incident does not happen,” Qassem Rezaei, deputy commander of Iran’s national police, said.
The clash happened amid tensions between the two countries over water rights.
Iran has accused the IEA of violating a 1973 treaty by restricting the flow of water from the Helmand river to Iran, an accusation denied by the IEA.
Earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the IEA over disregarding Iran’s water rights under the treaty. The IEA rejected Raisi’s perceived threat.
An Iranian cleric criticized Raisi’s remarks.
“Your diplomatic language was not correct. You suggested (to IEA) to take your words seriously and not complain later. Is this a proper statement? What answer did you get? You embarrassed this nation,” Abdulrahman Omarzahi, a religious scholar in Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran, said.
Afghanistan weather bureau issues heavy rain and flood warning
The Afghanistan Department of Meteorology issued a warning Monday on the possibility of heavy rain and floods in 19 provinces over the next two days.
In a warning on their website, they said heavy rains and floods could be expected on Monday and Tuesday in Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Baghlan, Nangarhar, Kabul, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Zabul, Ghazni, Maidan Wardak, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Parwan, Panjshir and Kapisa province.
According to the department, the amount of rainfall is predicted to be between 10 and 30 mm.
Last week, the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) reported that over the past month, at least 42 people died and 45 were injured in 13 provinces due to natural disasters.
Shafiullah Rahimi, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a video that during this period, 341 houses were completely or partially destroyed, 19,573 acres of agricultural land were damaged, and 1,354 livestock were lost in these provinces, mostly in flash floods.
According to Rahimi, these incidents took place in the provinces of Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Takhar, Badakhshan, Ghor, Kandahar, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Paktia, Khost, Daikundi and Nangarhar.
In addition to this, recent floods caused huge financial losses to residents.
The press office of the governor of Ghor has said that a joint delegation from various government departments visited Taywara and Pasaband districts of the province, to assess the flood damage.
“Five thousand, eight hundred and ninety-five acres of agricultural land, 105 drinking water wells, and water springs were destroyed in two districts, 74 shops were partially destroyed and some were completely destroyed,” the statement said.
In addition, 32 houses were partially destroyed, along with 201 small water dams, fourteen culvert bases and 559 small water reservoirs and canals.
Ghor’s press office said the team had shared the results of its investigations with the local administration, but no help has yet been received for the flood victims.
IEA’s Prime Minister congratulates Erdogan on his victory
Prime Minister of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, has extended his heartfelt congratulations to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his re-election.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won an election runoff Sunday after the strongest challenge to his 20-year rule.
The IEA Prime Minister expressed his sincere hope for increased strength, stability, and dedication to religious service in Turkey under President Erdogan’s leadership.
Akhund also noted the bond of brotherhood and friendship between the people of Afghanistan and Turkey and conveyed his aspirations for continued cooperation and mutual support between the two nations in various fields.
He also said Erdogan’s successful re-election will further strengthen diplomatic ties and shared values between the two countries.
Official results showed Erdogan’s challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu won 47.9% of the votes to Erdogan’s 52.1%, pointing to a deeply divided nation.
The election had been seen as one of the most consequential yet for Turkey, with the opposition believing it had a strong chance of unseating Erdogan and reversing his policies after his popularity was hit by a cost-of-living crisis.
Instead, victory reinforced his image of invincibility, after he had already redrawn domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the NATO member country of 85 million people.
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