The Taliban government has suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan, the latest step in its crackdown on Afghan women’s rights and freedoms.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s higher education ministry confirmed the suspension to CNN on Tuesday. A letter released by the Education Ministry said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting and the order will come into effect immediately.
Girls were banned from returning to secondary schools in March after the Taliban ordered schools for girls to close just hours after they reopened after months of being closed following the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday criticized the ban, calling it a “shameful decision that violates the right to education for women and girls in Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban make it clear every day that they do not respect the basic rights of Afghans, especially women,” the human rights watchdog said in a statement.
The US condemns “the Taliban’s unjustifiable decision to bar women from universities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a briefing on Tuesday.
The Taliban’s latest decision, he said, will have “significant consequences for the Taliban and will further alienate the Taliban from the international community and deny them the legitimacy they desire.”
The closure of girls’ secondary schools in March has “significant implications” for US engagement with Taliban officials, Price added.
“With the implementation of this decree, soon half of the Afghan population will not have access to education beyond primary school,” he said.
US Ambassador Robert Wood, the deputy representative for special political affairs, previously echoed these criticisms, telling a United Nations Security Council briefing that the “Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they have the rights.” of all Afghans, especially the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls.”
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when the US-led invasion ousted the group from power, 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 present a more dovish image in order to gain international support.
But while they have made numerous promises to the international community to protect the rights of women and girls, the Taliban are doing the opposite, systematically targeting their rights and freedoms.
Women in Afghanistan are no longer able to work in most sectors, require a male guardian for long-distance travel and have been instructed to cover their faces in public.
They have also placed limits on girls’ education and banned women from certain jobs while depriving them of rights they had tirelessly fought for over the past two decades.
In November, Afghan women were barred from entering amusement parks in Kabul when the government announced restrictions on women’s access to public parks, Reuters reports.