Heather Barr of HRW: “Taliban promises are worth nothing”

Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director of Human Rights Watch, has said that the Taliban’s consistent promises to lift the ban on girls’ and women’s education have not been delivered and the group’s promises are “worth nothing”.

Barr said this in a tweet on Monday, reacting to the recent remarks of secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, who said Thursday that the Taliban have agreed to allow women to resume work at the aid agency in the southern province of Kandahar, where the Taliban leadership is based.

Egeland met Taliban officials in Kabul and Kandahar last week to persuade them to reverse the ban on the organization’s female staff.

“We have an agreement to start immediate talks on a temporary arrangement that will enable our female colleagues to work with and for women and others in Kandahar,” Egeland told The Associated Press on May 25. “If we get a provincial exemption in Kandahar, we should be able to replicate it elsewhere.”

Barr reacted.

“Hope very much that Taliban follow through. But they’ve also been promising for over a year and a half to let girls go back to school with no signs of progress—and further crackdowns. And they did the same from 1996 to 20001. Taliban promises are worth nothing.”

In January, the Taliban said they were working on guidelines for women to return to work at NGOs. Egeland said earlier this week that key officials told him they are close to finalizing these guidelines. But they were unable to give a timeline or details when pressed.

In December 2022, the Taliban banned women from working at NGOs, allegedly because they were not wearing proper hijab. In April this year, the group extended the ban to the UN offices and agencies in Afghanistan, with some exemptions in the healthcare and education sectors.