Afghanistan’s Taliban-run higher education ministry said on Tuesday that female students would not be allowed access to the country’s universities until further notice.
A letter, confirmed by a spokesperson for the higher education ministry, instructed Afghan public and private universities to suspend access to female students immediately, in accordance with a Cabinet decision.
The latest Taliban restriction on female education is likely to raise concerns in the international community, which has not officially recognised the de facto administration.
Foreign governments, including the United States, have said that a change in policies on women’s education is needed before it can consider formally recognising the Taliban-run administration, which is also subject to heavy sanctions.
In March, the Taliban drew criticism from many foreign governments and some Afghans for making a U-Turn on signals all girls’ high schools would be opened.
Confirmation of the university restrictions came the same evening as a UN Security Council session on Afghanistan, at which the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said the closure of schools had “undermined” the Taliban administration’s relationship with the international community.
“As long as girls remain excluded from school and the de facto authorities continue to disregard other stated concerns of the international community, we remain at something of an impasse,” she said.
The decision came as many university students are sitting end of term exams. One mother of a university student, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said her daughter called her in tears when she heard of the letter, fearing she could no longer continue her medical studies in Kabul.
“The pain that not only I .. and (other) mothers have in our heart, could not be described. We are all feeling this pain, they are worried for the future of their children,” she said.