Afghanistan’s Taliban-led higher education ministry said on Tuesday that female students would not be allowed access to the country’s universities until further notice.
A letter, confirmed by a higher education ministry spokesman, instructed Afghanistan’s public and private universities to immediately suspend access to female students, in accordance with a cabinet decision.
The confirmation of the university restrictions came on the same evening as a UN Security Council session on Afghanistan, where the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said the closing of schools would harm the Taliban’s relationship. government with the international community had “undermined”. .
“As long as girls are excluded from school and de facto authorities continue to ignore other concerns raised by the international community, we will remain in a sort of impasse,” she said.
The decision came because many university students are taking end-of-year exams.
A mother of a university student, who declined to be named for security reasons, said her daughter called her in tears when she heard about the letter, fearing she could no longer continue her medical studies in Kabul.
“The pain that not only me and [other] having mothers in our hearts cannot be described. We all feel this pain, they are worried about their children’s future,” she said.
Foreign governments, including the United States, have said a change in women’s education policies is needed before they can consider formally recognizing the Taliban-led government, which is also subject to heavy sanctions.
“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, especially human rights and the fundamental freedom of women and girls,” said US Deputy UN Ambassador Robert Wood, against the council. “absolutely indefensible.”
British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the suspension was “another blatant curtailment of women’s rights and a profound and profound disappointment for every female student.”
“It is also another step by the Taliban away from a self-sufficient and prosperous Afghanistan,” she told the council.
In March, the Taliban were criticized by many foreign governments and some Afghans for turning a corner on signals that all girls’ secondary schools would open.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday’s move was “clearly another broken Taliban promise”.
“It’s another very disturbing step and it’s hard to imagine how the country can develop and face all the challenges without the active participation and education of women,” he told reporters in New York.
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US points to ‘irony’ of ‘goodwill gesture’ by Taliban
The ban on college attendance for women and girls coincided with the Taliban’s release of two U.S. citizens on Tuesday, in what appears to be a “gesture of goodwill,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. .
Speaking at a daily press briefing, he said any explanation for the timing of the release is a question for the Taliban.
“The irony that they grant us a gesture of goodwill on a day when they make a gesture like this to the Afghan people has not escaped us,” he told reporters.
Price said Washington continued to urge the Taliban to release all US citizens held in Afghanistan, but declined to say who they are and how many people are held there.
Price confirmed that the release was “not part of an exchange” and no money was exchanged for the detainees.
He said the former prisoners will soon be reunited with their loved ones.