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UN, US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia condemn Taliban ban on women education

December 23, 2022


KABUL: The Taliban decision to ban women from universities in Afghanistan has sparked a furore in the international community as the UN, US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia condemned the decision, terming it inhuman and against the fundamental rights.

The Taliban have banned women from universities in Afghanistan, sparking international condemnation and despair among young people in the country.

The higher education minister announced the regression, saying it would take immediate effect.

The ban further restricts women’s education -- girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned last year.

The United Nations and several countries have condemned the order, which takes Afghanistan back to the Taliban’s first period of rule when girls could not receive formal education.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan said it was “a new low further violating the right to equal education and deepens the erasure of women from Afghan society.”

The US said such a move would “come with consequences for the Taliban.”

“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.

“No country can thrive when half of its population is held back.”

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have also strongly condemned the Taliban’s nationwide ban on women attending private and public universities. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the ban was “neither Islamic nor humane.”

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Yemeni counterpart, Cavusoglu urged the Taliban to reverse the decision.

“What harm is there in women’s education? What harm does it do to Afghanistan?” Cavusoglu said. “Is there an Islamic explanation? On the contrary, our religion, Islam, is not against education; on the contrary, it encourages education and science.”

The Saudi foreign ministry expressed “astonishment and regret” at Afghan women being denied a university education. In a statement late on Wednesday, the ministry said the decision was “astonishing in all Islamic countries.”

They became the latest Muslim-majority countries to do so after Qatar, which has served as a mediator between the United States and the Taliban.

Western countries have demanded all year that the Taliban improve female education if they wish to be formally recognised as Afghanistan’s government.

Also, a small group of Afghan women staged a defiant protest in Kabul on Thursday against a Taliban order banning them from universities, an activist said, adding that some were arrested.

“They expelled women from universities. Oh, the respected people, support, support. Rights for everyone or no one!” chanted the protesters as they rallied in a Kabul neighbourhood.

A protester at the rally said “some of the girls” had been arrested by women police officers. Two were released, but several remained in custody, she added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Around two dozen women dressed in hijabs, some wearing masks, raised their hands and chanted slogans as they marched through the streets.

“Afghan girls are a dead people... they are crying blood,” said Wahida Wahid Durani, a journalism student at the University of Herat, who was not at the protest.

“They are using all their force against us. I’m afraid that soon they will announce that women are not allowed to breathe.”

A university lecturer and Afghan activist in the US said the Taliban had completed their isolation of women by suspending university for them.

“This was the last thing the Taliban could do. Afghanistan is not a country for women but instead a cage for women,” Humaira Qaderi said.

Several women said they gave up after the Taliban regained rule because of “too many difficulties.”

One female student predicted it a few weeks ago. “One day we will wake up and they will say girls are banned from universities,” she had said. And so, while many Afghans might have expected that sooner or later this decision would be taken, it still comes as a shock.

Women-led protests have become increasingly rare in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the country last August, after the detention of core activists at the start of the year.

Participants risk arrest, violence and social stigma for taking part.

The women had initially planned to gather in front of Kabul University, the country’s biggest and most prestigious educational institution, but changed locations after the authorities deployed a large number of security personnel there.