June 14, 2024

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ACAPS Thematic Report: Afghanistan – Update on Taliban decrees and directives affecting the humanitarian response (01 December 2023) – Afghanistan

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OVERVIEW

This report provides an update on the Interim Taliban Authority (ITA) decrees and directives (edicts) relevant to the Afghanistan humanitarian response. The analysis covers the period between the publication of ACAPS’ baseline report in April 2023 and October 2023. It maps and analyses ITA policies and decisions to support humanitarian responders’ understanding of the context and the operating environment.

ITA decisions have targeted sectors and activities relevant to different humanitarian clusters and working groups, affecting aid delivery modalities by INGOs and NNGOs and the everyday lives of Afghans. Some decrees or directives have affected education and health sectors, while others have further restricted work and employment. Some edicts form part of a wider array of social control measures, including restrictions on media content, public congregations, music at weddings, access to parks, and the public exercise of religion. Several decisions seek to improve citizens’ access to ITA officials.

In conclusion, ITA decisions demonstrate a pattern of increasing control over the lives of Afghan citizens and the operational environment of humanitarian responders. New regulations are shaping various aspects of daily life and increasingly restricting women’s access to education, health, and work and the modalities and content of aid delivery. While Afghans’ everyday lives are still not as restricted as during the first Islamic Emirate (1996–2001), the trend of ITA decisions suggests that Afghan society is gradually inching towards the same situation.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Fourteen of the ITA decisions covered in this update were an expansion or tightening of previous decisions restricting education, work, or health access or of social control measures. Examples include further limitations on women’s education (e.g. community-based primary education, medical studies), women’s access to jobs (e.g. the closing of beauty parlours), and access to healthcare facilities and information relevant to female health.

  • No ITA decree or directive has rolled back a previously taken decision; announcements on easing restrictions on women’s access to higher education have been symbolic and made prior to international summits on Afghanistan (e.g. the Doha summit in May 2023).

  • ITA decisions are communicated in decrees and directives, which contain one or more issues. Decisions expected to generate a broader national and international response (e.g. economic impact of the ban on beauty parlours) are typically communicated in single-issue decrees or directives; less significant issues (e.g. banning men from playing cards or flying kites during Eid) are usually bundled together in a directive containing several topics.

  • Of the 11 provincial directives analysed in this report, two were initially applied at the provincial level (e.g. in Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan) and subsequently generalised into national directives. These include, for example, the transfer of community-based education (CBE) programmes from INGOs to NNGOs.

  • Out of the 23 decrees and directives, 6 directly affected the modalities of the humanitarian response in the education and health sectors. Examples include the forced transfer of CBE from INGOs to NNGOs and the prohibition of cash payments and house visits in humanitarian healthcare support programmes.

  • Fourteen of the decrees and directives exclusively targeted women, while nine affected both men and women, demonstrating the centrality in the ITA’s political agenda of the curtailing of women’s role in public life. ITA decisions banning women from education and public life are both a reflection of their religious ideology and a bargaining chip with the international community.

  • The persistent targeting of women has a direct effect on women’s mental and physical health – resulting in cases of anxiety, depression, and suicide, rising domestic violence levels, and additional stress for women-headed households, and supporting family networks, which the humanitarian response should consider in its planning processes.

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