Taliban moral cops replace women ministry

Alasdair PalAAP
The Taliban announced a cabinet post for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice last week.
Camera IconThe Taliban announced a cabinet post for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice last week. Credit: AP

Workers in the Afghan capital Kabul have replaced signs for the country's women's ministry with those for the Taliban's moral police as female former employees of the department say they have been locked out of the building.

A sign for the building was covered by a replacement in a mixture of Dari and Arabic, reading "Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" on Friday, according to photographs and Reuters witnesses.

Female employees said they had been trying to come to work for several weeks only to be told to return to their homes, according to videos filmed outside the building seen by Reuters.

The gates of the building were finally locked on Thursday, one of the women said.

"I am the only breadwinner in my family," said a second woman, who also said she worked in the department.

"When there is no ministry, what should an Afghan woman do?"

Taliban spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

When the Taliban, who seized control of Afghanistan last month amid the chaos following the withdrawal of US troops, were last in power from 1996-2001 girls were not allowed to attend school and women were banned from work and education.

During that period its Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice became known as the group's moral police, enforcing its interpretation of sharia that included a strict dress code and public executions and floggings.

A list of cabinet posts announced by the Taliban on September 7 included an acting minister for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice and made no mention of a women's minister but the group did not confirm the department had been disbanded.

A senior Taliban leader said earlier this week that women would not be allowed to work in government ministries with men.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Friday saying that Afghanistan's Taliban rulers need to establish an inclusive government that has "the full, equal and meaningful participation of women" and upholds human rights.

The resolution adopted by the UN's most powerful body also extends the current mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months and delivers a clear message that its 15 members will be watching closely what the Taliban do going forward.

The statement reflects widespread disappointment over the recently announced interim Taliban government that left out women and minorities.

On Friday, the Taliban ordered that all boys in grades six to 12 and male teachers return to school and resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday - but made no mention of girls or women teachers.

Friday's Security Council resolution, drafted by Norway and Estonia, essentially delays a decision on a new mandate for the UN mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA, until March next year.

At the same time, it stresses "the critical importance of a continued presence of UNAMA" and other UN agencies "in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan".

with AP

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