The Taliban government has suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan, the latest step in its crackdown on Afghan women’s rights and freedoms.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s higher education ministry confirmed the suspension to CNN on Tuesday. A letter released by the Education Ministry said the decision was made at a cabinet meeting and the order will come into effect immediately.
Girls were banned from returning to secondary schools in March after the Taliban ordered schools for girls to close just hours after they reopened after months of being closed following the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday criticized the ban, calling it a “shameful decision that violates the right to education for 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 human rights watchdog said in a statement.
The United States “condemned in the strongest terms this absolutely untenable position,” said US Ambassador Robert Wood, deputy representative for special political affairs, in a statement at the United Nations Security Council briefing.
“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, particularly the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls. We will continue to work with this council to speak with one voice on this matter,” he added.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when the US-led invasion ousted the group from power, 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 present a more dovish image in order to gain international support.
But while they have made numerous promises to the international community to protect the rights of women and girls, the Taliban are doing the opposite, systematically targeting their rights and freedoms.
Women in Afghanistan are no longer able to work in most sectors, require a male guardian for long-distance travel and have been instructed to cover their faces in public.
They have also imposed limits on girls’ education, banning women from certain jobs, depriving them of rights they have fought tirelessly for the past two decades.
In November, Afghan women were barred from amusement parks in Kabul when the government restricted women’s access to public parks, Reuters reports.