All public and private universities in Afghanistan shall suspend the education of female students effective immediately and until further notice, the Taliban controlled ministry of higher education in Kabul announced on Tuesday.
The instruction was issued on behalf of Habibullah Agha, the education minister appointed in September by Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada of the Taliban.
Higher learning institutions had already segregated classrooms by gender and ensured that only women or old men were teaching female students after the Taliban retook power in August 2021.
Women were also outright banned from studying agriculture, engineering, economics and veterinary science, according to multiple reports.
The US-based NGO Human Rights Watch denounced the ban as “a shameful decision that violates the right to education for women and girls in Afghanistan” and claimed the Taliban was “making it clear every day that they don’t respect the fundamental rights of Afghans, especially women.”
The Taliban government has already suspended secondary education for girls, meaning anything above the sixth grade. Twelfth-grade students were allowed to sit for university entrance exams, but after the new ban they have nowhere to go.
According to the local outlet TOLO News, a number of Kabul residents pleaded on Tuesday with the Taliban government to reopen the secondary schools.
Kabul’s move comes a day after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the right of women and girls to receive education at all levels was among the things the Taliban government “must deliver from the point of view of the interests of the international community.”
The Taliban launched an insurgency after they were ousted from power by the US invasion in October 2001. They retook Kabul in August 2021, when the Washington-backed Afghan government collapsed before the last US troops had even left the country.