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The Guardian view on Afghanistan’s suffering: the war against women | Editorial

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Families are in desperate straits, the security situation is worsening – but the Taliban’s priority is punishing half the population

The Taliban’s relentless campaign against women is not only a matter of rights, but of survival. It is not only cruel and oppressive, but deadly. In a country already on its knees, where 97% of the population live in poverty, two-thirds need humanitarian assistance, 20 million face acute hunger and parents sell kidneys to feed their families, it has made life still more desperate. By banning women from working for NGOs, they are denying essential, life-saving services to women and children. Almost all the large aid agencies have suspended operations and the United Nations has paused some “time-critical” programmes. Major world powers have urged the Taliban to immediately reverse their “reckless and dangerous” decision, while UN agency chiefs described female staff as key to every aspect of the humanitarian response.

In many cases, these staff – who number in the tens of thousands – are also the only breadwinners in their households. Denying them their salaries ensures that women, children (and, incidentally, men too) will starve. The Taliban’s earlier decision to bar women from universities – and reportedly even primary education – means that no more female doctors or teachers will be trained. Teenage girls have already been kept out of school for almost a year and a half.

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