'Incredible fear' among women across Afghanistan -U.N. official

Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan September 3, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

NEW YORK, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A lack of clarity on the Taliban's position on women in Afghanistan has generated "incredible fear" across the country, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday, warning there were daily reports of curbs on the rights of women.

Alison Davidian, deputy head of UN Women in Afghanistan, said some women were being prevented from leaving home without a male relative, women in some provinces were forced to stop work, protection centers for women fleeing violence had been targeted and safe houses for rights activists were at full capacity.

"The lack of clarity of the Taliban's position on women's rights has generated incredible fear. And this fear is palpable across the country," Davidian, speaking from Kabul, told reporters in New York.

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"Memories are vivid of the Taliban's rule in the 1990s, when there were severe restrictions on women's rights, and women and girls are understandably afraid," she said.

Taliban leaders have vowed to respect women's rights in accordance with sharia, or Islamic law. But under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women could not work and girls were banned from school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left home.

In an interview with Australia's SBS News, a senior Taliban official said women would not be allowed to play cricket - a popular sport in Afghanistan - or possibly any other sport because it was "not necessary" and their bodies might be exposed.

The Islamist movement, which seized power last month, announced a new government on Tuesday that does not include any women. read more In Kabul, dozens of women took to the streets again to demand representation and for their rights to be protected.

"With the announcement yesterday, the Taliban missed a critical opportunity to show the world that it is truly building an inclusive and prosperous society," Davidian said. UN Women works globally for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney

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