A group of women took to the streets in the city of Herat, Afghanistan on Saturday to protest against a Taliban order this week suspending all female students from attending universities in the country.
Video footage circulating on social media showed Taliban officials using a water cannon to disperse the female protesters.
Girls could be seen running in front of the water cannons and chanting “cowards” at the officers.
The Taliban’s announcement this week that it would suspend university education for women students was the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on Afghan women’s freedoms.
The move came despite the group pledging to respect women’s rights when it returned to power.
It follows a similar move in March this year that prevented girls from returning to secondary schools.
Male students at universities across the country have responded to the recent education ban by boycotting their exams in protest.
“Education is the duty of both men and women,” said a statement released on Saturday by the Mirwais Nika Institute of Higher Education in Kandahar. “It is the fundamental right and secret of the country’s development and independence.”
The students had initially asked Taliban officials to lift the ban but gave “no positive response,” the school said – adding that “dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction” had fueled the boycott.
A university official told CNN that the students’ decision to boycott their admissions exams would result in classes being suspended.
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US troops in a flash takeover, having previously ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 – when the US-led invasion ousted the group from power.
In its earlier reign, the group was notorious for treating women as second-class citizens.
After seizing power last year, the group made numerous promises to protect the rights of women and girls.
But activists say the Taliban have not kept their word and continue to curtail women’s freedoms.
On Saturday, the group instructed all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country to stop female employees from showing up for work. Failure to comply would result in the revocation of NGO licenses, an official statement from the ministry said.
A spokesman told CNN the move was due to non-compliance with the Islamic dress code and other laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate.
Afghan women can no longer work in most industries.
Their travel rights have also been severely curtailed and access to public spaces significantly restricted. Women are also required to cover themselves completely – including their face – in public.