Taliban Bans Women From University Educations

The Taliban announced on December 20 that women would no longer be allowed to attend university, igniting condemnation from the international community and protests from women in the country.

Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the Taliban’s minister for higher education, said on state television that the government implemented the ban because women didn’t follow the dress code.

"They were dressing like they were going to a wedding," Nadeem said.

The new ban on women’s education took effect immediately, ordering public and private universities across the country to bar women from attending. Afghanistan’s education ministry said that its scholars evaluated the higher education curriculum and environment and declared that attendance for women would be suspended until a suitable “new environment” has been established.

The decision further restricts women’s access to education and other essential aspects of society. Since they returned to power in 2021, the Taliban excluded girls from attending secondary school, contrary to their promise of a softer rule and to respect women’s rights.

Some women and organizations promoting women’s rights in Afghanistan staged protests against the new policy in the capital Kabul, which Taliban officials quickly shut down.

"Today we come out on the streets of Kabul to raise our voices against the closure of the girls' universities," protesters from the Afghanistan Women's Unity and Solidarity group said.

Many female university students were disappointed with the decision. US Afghan activist and university lecturer Humaira Qaderi told the BBC that Afghanistan is no longer a country but a cage for women.

The United Nations and several countries condemned the decision, reminiscent of the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, characterized by heavy restrictions on women’s rights and harsh punishments based on Sharia.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan described the ban as "a new low, further violating the right to equal education and deepens the erasure of women from Afghan society."

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that “the Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan."

Although the Taliban’s leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle opposed modern education, especially for women and girls, the issue divided the Taliban, with more moderate officials opposing the ban.

Just three months ago, the Taliban allowed women to sit on university entrance examinations despite restrictions on the courses they could apply for. Before the ban, universities allowed women to attend, albeit with several discriminatory rules, such as gender-segregated entrances and classrooms.

The BBC reported that on December 22, the Taliban arrested five women and three journalists for participating in protests against the new restriction. Several women were also beaten or detained by female Taliban officers.

Some men also expressed their solidarity with the female protesters. Around 50 male university professors and lecturers at public and private universities resigned from their positions, while some male students refused to sit in university examinations.

People across the world are showing support for girls’ education using the hashtag #LetHerLearn.

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