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115 organizations & 196 persons endorsed SAHR Letter on Women's Work & Civil Society in Afghanistan

SAHR jointly with the undersigned organizations and individuals write this Open Letter to address the impacts of the Taliban’s order to suspend women employees from working in local and international NGOs in Afghanistan. With this Open Letter, we are calling on the international community to support women-led Afghan NGOs re-strategise to cope with the impacts of the Taliban’s new ban.

“It was painful to tell our female staff not to come to work the following day. We immediately called for an emergency meeting to deal with the operational impact of the ban. It changes everything for us,” said one of our colleagues, an Afghan human rights lawyer.

The NGO sector in Afghanistan was ultimately the last remaining safe place for women to be sustainably employed in. Tens of thousands of Afghan women were employed as educators, advisors, mediators, aid workers, surveyors, midwives, doctors and first responders.

The Taliban’s decree essentially forced women to a state of permanent unemployment and poverty.

“Few months ago, when I was in court helping my client, I got into a discussion with a Taliban judge about women’s work. I challenged him and said: if women cannot work, how are we going to feed our children? He said: either get married, or ask for zakat (charity) but women cannot work,” said one of our colleagues, a human rights lawyer.

Despite international condemnation, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid indicated no sign that the ban would be reconsidered or lifted:

“All those institutions wanting to operate in Afghanistan are obliged to comply with the rules and regulations of our country. We do not allow anyone to talk rubbish or make threats regarding the decisions of our leaders under the title of humanitarian aid.”

Kabul and other major cities were under high-security and surveillance after the decrees were announced.

“I had a drive around the city today morning to assess the changes and security surveillance. There are small groups of Taliban surveillance moving in the city watching women’s movements in the roads, streets and localities,” said one of our colleagues in Afghanistan.

Our colleagues are affected mentally as they are experiencing an unexpected and sudden change. But the current constraints push us to be more committed, motivated, courageous. We are prepared to work harder and to work with a vision. Such challenges and limitations should not stop us from supporting the women in our community who are the most affected and marginalised in the country.

We are calling on the international community for a more serious coordinated response against the systematic violence and gender persecution of women in Afghanistan and to pressure the Taliban to reverse their decision.

Our recommendations are as follows:


UN Security Council

In addition to issuing a statement:

1. Pass a resolution to strengthen -restrictions on the Taliban leadership including an absolute travel ban on the Taliban leadership, and implement penalties under the UN Security Council Resolution 1988.

2. Recognise and acknowledge the recent decrees and restrictions on women as acts of gender persecution amounting to crimes against humanity and take steps to restore peace and security for women, girls and other marginalised groups in the country.

International community and INGOs

3. Support Afghan civil society groups who are in the process of re-strategizing. Assist them to establish their organisations outside of Afghanistan and accommodate new modalities of funding and operations so that they can cope with the new operating context and conditions.

4. Ease the impact of restrictions on women and create opportunities for women to work from home. These opportunities can include: online counselling, telehealth, mobile-counselling, literacy courses, legal advice and awareness, mediation, art and writing projects. Every effort should be made to provide security, remote capacity and support to women aid workers and organizations who are strategizing themselves to work from home.

5. Provide holistic economic, capacity-building and counselling support to women workers who have been dismissed or whose jobs are temporarily suspended. Many women who have contacted us have said they are hopeless, helpless, depressed and isolated. Providing them with psychosocial support and giving them an avenue to continue their education is exceptionally important for their well-being.

Muslim political and religious leaders

6. Establish a mechanism to take joint coordinated actions to engage with the Taliban in political and religious dialogue to reverse restrictions on women, and rapidly respond to crises as they unfold.

7. Examine and challenge rigorously the interpretations that the Taliban has used under Shariah to justify their restrictions and publish widely statements, articles and opinion pieces to declare a consensus within the Muslim community on women’s rights under Shariah.

8. Hold the Taliban to account in ensuring that it upholds, respects and promotes human rights and women’s equality. Any laws or policies that coerce and confine women and/or men to limit their freedom of will to practice their beliefs are in clear violation of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

115 Signataries Organisations:

Action for Women


Afghan Canadian Civil Society Forum

Afghan Legal Empowerment Portal

Afghan Women Organization

Afghan-American Foundation

AMERA International

Anusandhan Trust

Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA)


Benjamin Consulting

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan

BMMA, India


Canada Afghanistan Association for Health

Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Canadian Women's Foundation

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

Capital Punishment Justice Project

Care international

Centre for Social and Behaviour Change Communication



CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls

Collective Impact

Comisión para los Derechos Humanos del Estado Zulia (Venezuela)


Community Regen

Company of Master Mariners of India

Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations

COSPE Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries

Engender Equality in Humanitarian Action

Equality Fund

Equality League

Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association

Ethiopian women lawyers association

Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki

Feminine Solidarity for Justice organization

Forgotten Families

Gender Matters

Global Affairs

Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety

Green Party of Canada

Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights

Heart of an Ace

Himaya Daeem AATAA (HDA)

Human Rights Watch

Humanitarian Relief and Development Council(HRDC)

Huron Shores Refugee Support Group

Independent Medico-Legal Unit-Kenya

International Chamber of Commerce

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

International Women Judges Association

Lighthouse Relief

Malaysian Action for Justice & Unity

Maternity foundation

Medica Mondiale

Mulier Venezuela


Muslim Women’s Network UK

Nagaad Women's Network

National Council of Women of Canada

Network of Ethiopian Women's Associations


Ottawa Chapter-Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Philanthropy Advisors


Plan International

Project gratitude

Public Concern Foundation

Queen's University

Quman women development Association


Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization SRMO

Shekinah Girls' Empowerment and Protection Initiative

SIHA Network (Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa )

Spotlight Center for Law and Human Rights

Stockholm Cultural Association

Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa

Stronger Together

Sunnybrook hospital

Synergy for Justice

Technical University of Mombasa

The Bloom

The Freedom Bird Foundation

The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the health of women and children

The Healing Circle SG

The Zomia Center

Together Stronger

Training Human Rights Association for Afghan women (THRA)



Uganda Association of women Lawyers

UN Women



Union pour la Promotion/Protection, la Défense des Droits Humains et de l'Environnement - UPDDHE

University of New Mexico



Uthema (Maldives)

Welcome Afghan Women

What Took You So Long?

Women and children legal research Foundation

Women for Justice and Equality South Sudan

Women Leaders of Tomorrow

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)


Women's International League for Peace Freedom Canada

Working Women Community Centre

York Support Services Network (YSSN)

8am media

196 individual signataries:

Simone Abel

Anna Abraham

Nayna Agarwal

Kanwal Ahluwalia

Tahmina Akakhil

Nasima Akter

Tamara Aleksidze

Khatera Amin

Hadeia Amiry

Victoria Angel

Kristin Antin

Marco Antolini

Asiya Anwar

Paula Arocha

Amber Arora Shah

Clementina Ashu

Nadira Aslam

Zilma Augusta Rangel

Mohammad Azeem Sharif

Giorgia Barbieri

Elisa Bartolacelli

Lyla Bavaadam

Giulia Bazziga

Alexa Berardino

Elena Bergamaschi

Paola Bianchini

Farah Binte Abdul Rashid

Francesca Borghi

Sara Borghi

Golnara Bosty

Helen Brown

Catherine Carr

Rachel Carter

Shoba Chandy

Shoba Chandy

Laxmi Chhaya

Samantha Chia

Rupa Chinai

Priyanka Chirimar

Salima Chitalia

Chiara Ciminello

Emily Cordeaux

Elisa Corradi

Ilana Cravitz

Pamela Cross

Adam Dainowski

Eszter Darvas-Tanácsné Novák

Leah De Hoet

Katharina Dragu

Sabine Ebner

Mohammad Ekram Sharifi

Aicha El Hajjami

Ebru Ergün

Martha F. Bowden

Inke Fabian

Farahnaz Farah

Ahmad Farid Khan

Antonia Faustini

Florence Fernandes

Francesca Feruglio

Roya Froghi

Sabine Fruendt

Lea Gabay

Silvia Gallo

Gianluca Gotto

Cheryl Grace

Francesco Guaraldi

Natalia Guecheva

Diba Hareer

Rana Hazarat

Sayed Hedait Shah Ziwary

Maryam Heidari

Mark Hepburn

Marcy Hersh Robinson

Caroline Honsberger

Andy Hughes

Sadam Hussian

Ana Sofia Inácio Português

Fiona Iliff

Mohan Jacob

Massoma Jafari

Muzghan Jalal

Hannah Jay

Ashifa Jiwa

Robert Jordan

Surekha kadapa-bose

Laureen Karayi

Marissa Kardon Weber

Muhammad Khalid Masud

Sun-Min Kim

Neeta Kolhatkar

Andrea Koris

Amir Latiff

Francesca Lazzaretti

Carol Le Duc

Nolan LeBlanc

Jill Leslie

Corey Levine

Natasha Lewis

Tina Lieber

Rachel Lindley

Rebecca Lippiatt

Rashmi Luther

António Luz

Sujata Madhok

Looi Yin Mah

Nadia Mahlke

Ellen Mahoney

Margherita Manfredini

Parwin Mansuri

Jennifer Margison

Zemp Maria

Pedro Matos

Patricia Maurice

Patricia Maurice

Gabrielle McGuire

Lata Menon

maimuna merican

Mariam Meynert

Nadia Migdal

Ziba Mir-Hosseini

Miriam Modalal

Salwa Mohammed Radhi Al-Zahid

Zarghona Mohmmadi

Claudia Morini di Tocco

Catherine Mungall-Baldwin

Nadia Naimi

Shaima Nasiri

Samira Nawaby

Selsela Nazeri

Ani Nedkova

Ani Nedkova

Douglas Nuzuran

Candace Okon

Eileen Olexiuk

Chiara Palmisano

Anna Paola Favero

Laura Parker

Elena Pasini

Francesca Penzo

Aleksandra Perczyńska

Kristin Philipson

Joana Picoto

Ester Pizzi

Vivienne Pocha

Rita Pongiluppi

Nilofar Popalzai

Fenella Porter

Aditi Pradhan

Segbe Pritchett

Gowri Rajendran

Abdul Rashid Athar

Krupa Rathod

Sahar Raza

Patrick Reinert

Mary Rizzo

Barbara rosario

Cavallini Rossella

Tatiana Rouhana

Nikhil Roy

Claudio Russo

Martina Sabbatella

Parwaneh Saeedi

Kobra Samim

Shirin Sandström

Asiyah Sarwari

Abdul Sattar

Cristina Sghedoni

Charu Shahane

Malalei Sharif

Maria Sologianni

Anne Sprinkel

Judit Szikra

Hannah Tappis

Lilia Terranova

Cassandra Thomazios

Sarah Tiapula-Stein McCabe

Laura Tincani

Amela Tokić

Mushtaq ul haq ahmad Sikander

Valentina Volpe

abdul wahab salehi

Latifa Wahdat

Tina Wallace

Abdirizak Waraabe

Joanna Warchał-Beneschi

Heike Warmuth

Sascha Werginz

Yvonne Werginz

Margaret Whitley

Elizabeth Whitmore

Saskia Wishart

Zahra Yagana

Musa Zafar

Maliha Zia Lari

For more information

Contact Humaira Ameeri at

Read SAHR Open Letter on the ban on women’s higher education here.

Read SAHR and Musawah Joint Statement on the ban on women’s higher education here.

SAHR is a peer-led network of human rights defenders fueling a worldwide movement of women and diverse human rights defenders working to end gender-based violence through law and policy


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