The Taliban government has suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan, the latest step in its brutal crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women.
A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education confirmed the suspension to CNN on Tuesday. A letter released by the education ministry said the decision was taken at a cabinet meeting and the order will come into effect immediately.
The girls were barred from returning to high schools in March, after the Taliban ordered girls’ schools closed just hours after they were due to reopen following months-long closures imposed after the takeover Taliban in August 2021.
Human Rights Watch criticized the ban on Tuesday, calling it a “shameful decision that violates the right to education of women and girls in Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban make it clear every day that they do not respect the fundamental rights of Afghans, especially women,” the rights watchdog said in a statement.
The US condemns “the Taliban’s indefensible decision to ban women from universities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a briefing on Tuesday.
The Taliban’s recent decision, he said, “will have major consequences for the Taliban and further alienate the Taliban from the international community and deny them the legitimacy they desire.”
The closing of high schools to girls in March had a “significant impact” on the US’s engagement with Taliban proxies, Price added.
“With the implementation of this decree, half of the Afghan population will soon be unable to access education beyond primary school,” he said.
US Ambassador Robert Wood, the deputy representative for special political affairs, previously echoed those criticisms, telling a UN Security Council briefing that the Taliban cannot hope to be a legitimate member of the community international until they respect the rights of all Afghans. the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls”.
The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when the US-led invasion forced the group from power, have historically treated women as second-class citizens, subjecting them to violence, forced marriages and an almost invisible presence in the country. . .
After taking power in Afghanistan last year, the Taliban tried to project a more moderate image to gain international support.
But while it has made numerous promises to the international community that it would protect the rights of women and girls, the Taliban has been doing the opposite, systematically suppressing their rights and freedoms.
Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most sectors, need a male guardian to travel long distances and have been ordered to cover their faces in public.
They have also imposed limits on girls’ education, barring women from certain jobs, stripping them of the rights they have fought tirelessly for over the past two decades.
In November, Afghan women blocked access to amusement parks in Kabul as the government announced restrictions on women’s access to public parks, Reuters reports.