Kabul: The Afghan Taliban on Tuesday banned female students from attending universities in its latest edict against women’s rights and freedoms.
Despite initially promising a more moderate rule that would respect the rights of women and minorities, the Taliban have widely implemented a strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
Girls have been banned from middle and high school education, women have been restricted from most employment and ordered to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms.
The Taliban overthrew the US-led coalition in 2001 for supporting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and returned to power last year after a chaotic American withdrawal.
The decision was announced after a government meeting. In a letter shared by Ministry of Higher Education spokesperson Ziaullah Hashmi, he told private and public universities to implement the ban as soon as possible and notify the ministry when the ban is in effect.
Hashmi tweeted the letter and confirmed its contents in a message to The Associated Press without providing further details.
The decision is likely to damage the Taliban’s efforts to gain acceptance from potential international donors at a time when the country is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis. The international community has called on Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women the right to public space.
The college ban comes weeks after Afghan girls sit their high school graduation exams, even though they have been banned from classrooms since the Taliban took over the country last year.
“I can’t fulfill my dreams, my hopes. Everything is disappearing before my eyes and I can’t do anything,” said the third-year journalism and communication student at Nangarhar University. He did not want to be identified, fearing reprisals.
“Is it a crime to be a girl? If that’s the case, I wish I wasn’t a girl,” he added. “My father had dreams for me, that his daughter would be a talented journalist in the future. That is now destroyed. So you tell me, how will a person feel in this situation?’
He added that he has not lost all hope.
“God willing, I will continue my studies anyway. I am starting online studies. And if it doesn’t work, I will have to leave the country and go to another country,” he said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the decision, considering it another “promise that has been considered” and “very worrying” by the Taliban.
“It is difficult to imagine how a country can develop and face all its challenges without the active participation of women and education,” said Guterres.
Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said the Taliban cannot hope to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans.
Afghanistan’s UN seat is still held by the previous government led by former President Ashraf Ghani, despite the Taliban’s request to represent the country at the United Nations, which was recently postponed again.
Naseer Ahmed Faiq, the head of Afghanistan affairs at the UN, said the announcement “marks a new low in violating the most basic and universal of all human rights”.
Add comment View comments ()