Up to 600,000 people in Kabul rely on aid
Taliban asks agencies to leave Kabul

Foreign Workers Leave Afghanistan

KABUL, July 20,1998 (AP) -- Foreign aid workers left the Afghan capital Monday in a convoy of vans and four-wheel drive vehicles after the country's Taliban rulers ordered them to move to abandoned dormitories or quit the country.

The convoy of about 200 aid workers wound its way through Kabul toward the eastern city of Jalalabad, headed for neighboring Pakistan. All the aid workers had left Kabul by evening.

"The deadline passed on Sunday, but we gave them another 24 hours,'' said Mullah Mohammed Nabi Majrooh, deputy head of the Taliban security department. "If ... we see them on the streets in Kabul (Tuesday) we will take action under our laws.''

The exodus could have a devastating impact on the estimated 750,000 residents of Kabul. The aid groups provided subsidized food, medicine and clothes and were repairing neighborhoods heavily damaged by civil war.

Among the 38 aid groups that pulled out were Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Care International, Action Against Hunger, the Swedish Committee, and Children in Crisis.

Only workers from the United Nations and the International Red Cross were exempted from the relocation order and remained in Kabul.

Two weeks ago, the Taliban ordered the aid groups to relocate to dormitories once used by students of Kabul's technical schools. The battered buildings have been empty since Islamic insurgents swept Afghanistan's communists from power in 1992.

Aid workers said they feared they would be targeted for possible attacks or kidnappings and couldn't afford to refurbish the dormitories.

In a related development, the European Union announced Monday it would freeze funding for humanitarian aid projects in Kabul because of the Taliban's treatment of women.

The Taliban closed schools for girls and forced women off the job. Women also are publicly beaten if they are not covered by the all-enveloping robe, called a burqa.

The suspension of aid covers about $4 million, or 40 percent of all aid the EU had earmarked for Afghanistan over the next 12 months.

"There is a sort of sexual apartheid. Women are being discriminated against. It violates all sorts of principles, in particular the rules on humanitarian aid,'' said EU spokesman Pietro Petrucci.

He said conditions for aid workers outside the capital were slightly better and aid to the rest of Afghanistan would not be blocked. Most of the EU funding for Kabul goes toward sanitation, health and food projects.

Also Monday, a U.N. statement said the bodies of two Afghan nationals who were kidnapped July 13 while working for the United Nations were found near Jalalabad. There was no claim of responsibility for the deaths and it was not clear whether the slayings were linked to the men's work.

Kabul was relatively unscathed during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan that ended in 1989. But after 1992 and the fall of the pro-Moscow government, the capital was heavily damaged by warring Islamic factions.

An estimated 50,000 people -- most of them civilians -- were killed and thousands more were maimed. About 50 percent of the city is in ruins.

The Taliban rule roughly 85 percent of the country, while the opposition controls the remaining 15 percent, much of it in northern Afghanistan. Lawlessness in opposition-held areas has made it virtually impossible for aid organizations to operate there.

Kabul aid workers evicted

BBC, July 20, 1998

Up to 600,000 people in Kabul rely on aid

Taleban soldiers have closed down the offices of aid agencies in the Afghan capital and ordered staff to leave the country.

They sealed off their premises after aid workers refused to relocate to bomb-damaged buildings on the outskirts of Kabul.

Mullah Mohammed Nabi Majrooh, deputy head of the Taleban security department, said: "The deadline for them has passed. We told them to move ... by Sunday."

Increasing Taleban restrictions on foreign aid workers prompted the European Union to suspend millions of dollars of funding for projects in Kabul.

Aid workers say the decision, announced by the European Commission, could be disastrous as up to half the city's population depends on foreign aid.

Two weeks ago, the Taleban ordered aid organisations to move to the abandoned war-ravaged polytechnic compound on the edge of Kabul.

UN protest

But aid workers say they cannot afford to refurbish the buildings and fear they will be open to possible attacks or kidnap attempts.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross were exempted from the order but the UN has written to Taleban leaders objecting to the relocation demand.

While cutting off its aid package the EU also advised aid agencies receiving its grants to leave Kabul rather than accept the Taleban demand.

The commission is Afghanistan's biggest single aid donor. Aid workers say that up to half of Kabul's 1.2m population depend on the services they provide.

A commission spokesman in Brussels said operations would remain suspended until it was possible to distribute aid fairly in Kabul.

A BBC correspondent says the dispute was seen as the final straw after a series of confrontations between the Taleban and international aid organisations.

'Impossible to work'

A spokesman for the European Commission confirmed it had suspended funding for projects in Kabul because it was impossible to run aid operations properly under current conditions.

Europe has frequently complained about Taleban restrictions on girls' education, health care and employment for women, which it says makes it difficult for aid agencies to help women in need.

Most aid workers affected by the Taleban ultimatum have already left Afghanistan. By Tuesday, it is expected that only a handful will remain.

The EU decision does not affect the work of the United Nations or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Taliban asks agencies to leave Kabul

KABUL, July 20,1998 (UPI) - International aid agencies in Afghanistan are warning of an imminent catastrophe in the capital of Kabul as the ruling Taliban militia asks foreign aid workers to leave.

Encouraged by their recent victories, the Taliban fighters have become increasingly intolerant of outside influence. Last week they banned citizens in the areas under their control from watching television because they said it was a bad influence.

Earlier this month the Taliban had asked foreign aid workers to move into a derelict college building. The deadline expired Sunday. Responding to the Taliban order, the aid agencies said today their donors have refused to provide $1 million needed to renovate the building, so they are sending their international staff out of Kabul.

About 25 aid agencies have been operating in Kabul with more than 100 international workers. Most of them have already left the city, handing over their work to the local staff. The agencies fear that the absence of international staff will further decrease an already dwindling outside financial support for Afghanistan.

Susan Manuel, acting spokesperson for the United Nations in Afghanistan, said that without the presence of non-government organizations in Kabul, ``a large part of the aid work will be cut back. ''

She said a recent decision by the European Commission to suspend between $9 million and $10 million in funding to Afghanistan will also affect the aid work. The European Commission was providing about one- quarter of the total international aid to Afghanistan.

The Taliban said the aid agencies' activities are against Afghan culture, so they were asked to move into the college building to make supervision easier. The militants are particularly upset about support programs for women, which run contrary to Taliban teachings.

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