Taliban lay off thousands of civil servants, all female employees

AFP, April 13, 2000

KABUL, April 13 (AFP) - Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has laid off thousands of civil servants including all female employees and teachers, officials and workers said Thursday.

The ruling militia had already stopped paying female civil servants their monthly wages before the layoff, they said.

There was no sign the Taliban had any immediate plans to help the laid-off staff find substitute means of livelihood, they added.

Taliban ministers were reluctant to give figures, but civil servants said the redundancies were up to 50 per cent in some ministries, including all female staff.

Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel tried to downplay the move, saying they had only terminated those staff who were not working.

He conceded, however, that female staff would not be paid their wages.

"As far as I know, they all have been laid off from those departments where there were no facilities or need to work," he said, when asked if all female teachers and workers were among those laid off.

"We do not have any immediate plans to give jobs to those who have been laid off. But they can find themselves jobs enjoying their free lives," Mutawakel said.

If job opportunities came up in future the laid-off staff would be given the first chance of employment, he said.

"There are 35 to 50 per cent redundancies in every ministry," said a senior official who did not want to be named.

"Twenty five per cent of lay-offs are men, but the rest are women," he said, adding that the number of affected ministries could reach 25.

Around 50 per cent of staff have been made redundant in the ministry of education, including all female teachers, officials said.

Sources in the finance ministry said that 2,800 people had been laid off there, whereas officials in the justice ministry said 40 per cent of their staff had been made redundant.

Taliban officials claimed the drive was to end over-employment caused by previous governments creating unecessary jobs.

Women have been barred from work outside the home and in education and they have to cover themselves from head to toe when they venture out.

In September 1996 when the Taliban captured Kabul, their Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar issued a decree that women workers should stay at home, but promised to keep paying them regularly.

Female personnel, most of them teachers and administrative staff, came to their offices once or twice a month to sign their names and to receive the equivalent of five US dollars as monthly wages.

Many families are headed by widows in Afghanistan, which has been in a state of war for 20 years since the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion.

The number of female beggars is on the rise while families migrate to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan to seek a living as labourers and vendors.

The Taliban is locked in a bitter war against supporters of the opposition military commander Ahmad Shah Masood, who is entrenched in a chunk of territory in the northeast.

Last Friday, the United Nations Security Council threatened to impose more sanctions on the Taliban to force it to end fighting. It also blasted them for unabated violence and worsening humanitarian conditions in the country.

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