Female students have been banned from Afghan universities with immediate effect, the Taliban said.
A letter, confirmed by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education, instructed Afghan public and private universities to suspend access to female students until further notice in accordance with a cabinet decision.
Both the United States and Britain have condemned the announcement and are likely to raise concerns among the international community, which has not officially recognized the de facto administration.
The US government has said a change in policy on women’s education is needed before it can consider officially recognizing the Taliban-led administration, which is also subject to heavy sanctions.
the taliban drew criticism in March after it backtracked on opening all middle and high schools to girls.
Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said the latest suspension was “another egregious restriction on women’s rights and a deep and profound disappointment for every student”.
She told the council: “This is also another step by the Taliban away from a self-reliant and prosperous Afghanistan.”
The confirmation of university restrictions came the same evening the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said the school closures had ‘undermined’ the Taliban administration’s relationship with the community. international.
Speaking at a UN Security Council session on Afghanistan, she said: “As long as girls remain excluded from school and de facto authorities continue to ignore other stated concerns of the international community, we will remain in a sort of stalemate”.
Many students also have to take end-of-term exams. One mother, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said: “The pain that not only me…and (other) mothers have in our hearts, cannot be described.
“We all feel this pain, they are worried about the future of their children.”
She said that when her daughter heard about the letter, she called her and now fears she could no longer continue her medical studies in Kabul.
US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said: “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 freedoms of women and girls”.
In a three-part Sky News documentary in early December, special correspondent Alex Crawford examined the struggle for women’s rights in one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.
More than a year after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, Women at War: Afghanistanreached out to informal networks of women’s resistance groups fighting to maintain their basic human rights, freedom and identity.