U.N. Responds to Taliban, Withdraws from S. Afghanistan

The United Nations announced that it has shut down its operations in Southern Afghanistan, the geographical center of operations for the Taliban army, because of harassment by the Taliban and restrictions placed on women humanitarian workers. U.N. spokeswoman Sarah Russell said, “The decision (to withdraw) was prompted by persistent interference by the Taliban authorities in the southern region in the U.N. programs … the harassment of U.N. staff and repeated assaults on U.N. staff.” The U.N. has demanded a written statement from the Taliban stating that U.N. activities will take place “in accordance with international norms.”

The Taliban militia group is unrecognized by the U.N., but rules 85 percent of Afghanistan. The group has issued decrees that amount to gender apartheid and the blatant eradication of women’s human rights, including: prohibiting women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, son or father, requiring women to wear a head-to-toe covering called a burqa, forbidding women and girls to attend school or to receive care from a male doctor that is not a relative.

Last week the Taliban issued an order that all Muslim foreign women in the country must obey their decrees. Two U.N. workers were ordered to leave by Taliban soldiers.

Russell said that the withdrawal will result in temporary shutdowns of programs that removed land mines, rebuilt homes and repaired irrigation systems.

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AP - March 24, 1998

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