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Afghanistan. Taliban warn women cannot pass entrance exams


The Taliban doubled down on its ban on women’s education on Saturday, reinforcing in a message to private universities that Afghan women are barred from taking university entrance exams, according to a spokesperson.

The memo comes despite weeks of condemnation and lobbying by the international community for a reversal of measures restricting women’s freedoms, including two back-to-back visits this month by several senior UN officials. It also bodes ill for hopes that the Taliban might take steps to reverse their edicts anytime soon.

The Taliban banned women from entering private and public universities last month. The Taliban-led government’s higher education minister, Nida Mohammed Nadim, has argued the ban is necessary to prevent gender mixing at universities – and because he believes some subjects taught violate Islamic principles .

Work was underway to resolve these issues and universities would reopen for women once they were resolved, he said in a TV interview.

The Taliban made similar promises regarding girls’ access to middle and high school, saying classes would resume for them once “technical issues” over uniforms and transport were ironed out. But girls remain excluded from classrooms beyond the sixth grade.

Higher Education Ministry spokesman Ziaullah Hashmi said on Saturday that a letter reminding private universities not to allow women to take entrance exams had been sent. He gave no further details.

A copy of the letter, shared with The Associated Press, warned that women could not take the “entrance test for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels” and that if a university disobeyed the edict, ” legal action would be taken against the offender”.

The letter was signed by Mohammad Salim Afghan, the government official in charge of student affairs at private universities.

Entrance exams start on Sunday in some provinces while elsewhere in Afghanistan they start on February 27. Universities across Afghanistan follow a different term schedule, due to seasonal differences.

Mohammed Karim Nasari, spokesman for the private universities union, said last month that dozens of private universities were at risk of closing due to the ban.

Afghanistan has 140 private universities in 24 provinces, with around 200,000 students. Among them, 60,000 to 70,000 are women. Universities employ about 25,000 people.

Earlier this week, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and heads of two major international aid organizations traveled to Afghanistan, following a visit last week by a delegation led by the highest-ranking woman in the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed. The visits had the same goal: to try to reverse the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls, including the banning of Afghan women from working for national and global humanitarian organizations.

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