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 spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education confirmed the suspension to CNN on Tuesday. A letter released by the Department for Education says the decision was made at a cabinet meeting and the order will take effect immediately.
Girls were banned from returning to secondary schools in March, after the Taliban ordered girls’ schools to close just hours after they reopened after months of closures imposed after the Taliban takeover 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 basic rights of Afghans, especially women,” the rights watchdog said in a statement.
The United States condemns “the Taliban’s indefensible decision to ban women from universities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing on Tuesday.
The Taliban’s recent move, 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 March closure of secondary schools for girls had a “significant impact” on the United States’ engagement with Taliban representatives, 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 alternate representative for special political affairs, reiterated those criticisms earlier, telling a UN Security Council briefing that “the Taliban cannot be expected to be a member legitimacy of the international community as long as they do not respect the rights of all Afghans, in particular the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when a US-led invasion ousted 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 they made numerous promises to the international community that they would protect the rights of women and girls, the Taliban did the opposite, systematically suppressing their rights and freedoms.
Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most sectors, need a male guardian for long journeys and have been ordered to cover their faces in public.
They have also imposed limits on girls’ education, banning women from certain workplaces while denying them rights they have fought tirelessly for over the past two decades.
In November, Afghan women were barred from entering amusement parks in Kabul as the government announced restrictions on women’s access to public parks, Reuters reports.