Taliban-administered higher education ministry in Afghanistan has prohibited female students from accessing the country’s universities until further notice.
The spokesperson for the ministry said Tuesday that it was in accordance with a Cabinet decision. The letter was issued to all government and private universities, and signed by the minister for higher education, Neda Mohammad Nadeem.
According to him, “You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending the education of females until further notice.”
The spokesman for the ministry, Ziaullah Hashimi, tweeted the letter.
Meanwhile, the spokesman of the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, has described the move as ‘troubling’. Dujarric stated that, “It’s clearly another broken promise from the Taliban.
“We have seen since their takeover … a lessening of space for women, not only in education, but access to public areas.
“It’s another very troubling move and it’s difficult to imagine how a country can develop, can deal with all of the challenges that it has without the active participation of women and their education.”
The move was condemned by the United States and British UN envoys. US Deputy UN Ambassador Robert Wood stated that, “The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, especially the human rights and fundamental freedom of women and girls.
The Taliban however said its decision was aimed at preserving ‘national interest’ and women’s ‘honour’. The officials said the secondary education ban was only temporary. They claimed they want to remodel their education syllabus in line with Islam.
The government earlier restricted women from most fields of employment, as well as ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, and banned them from parks and gyms.
UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said it had ‘undermined’ the Taliban administration’s relationship with the international community.
Quoting her, “As long as girls remain excluded from school and the de facto authorities continue to disregard other stated concerns of the international community, we remain at something of an impasse.”
Obaidullah Baheer, founder of the Let Afghan Girls Learn campaign, described the development as ‘a recurring nightmare stretching over generations’.
“The Taliban chose the day and the time in which the UN security council was discussing Afghanistan to announce something like that,” Baheer told Al Jazeera.
“There is tension within the Taliban … even people who oppose this decision have been very passive,” he said.
“We kept relying on the Taliban to reform internally – that hasn’t worked,” Baheer said.
Our correspodent reports that the decision came as many university students are sitting for end-of-term exams.