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Afghanistan: Taliban closes universities to women

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The Taliban have announced the closure of universities for women in Afghanistan, according to a letter by the higher education minister.

The minister says the move is until further notice. It is expected to take effect immediately.

It further restricts women’s access to formal education, as they were already excluded from most secondary schools.

One Kabul University student told the BBC she had been crying since she heard the news.

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Three months ago thousands of girls and women sat university entrance exams across Afghanistan.

But sweeping restrictions were imposed on the subjects they could study, with veterinary science, engineering, economics and agriculture off limits and journalism severely restricted.

After the Taliban takeover last year, universities introduced gender segregated classrooms and entrances.

Female students could only be taught by women professors or old men.

Responding to the latest ban, a female university student told the BBC she thought the Taliban were scared of women and their power.

“They destroyed the only bridge that could connect me with my future,” she said.

“How can I react? I believed that I could study and change my future or bring the light to my life but they destroyed it.”

Afghanistan’s education sector was badly affected after the Taliban takeover and there has been an exodus of trained academics after the withdrawal of US-led forces last year.

Another woman spoke about “too many difficulties” just trying to continue her education after the Taliban takeover.

She told the BBC: “We fought with our brothers, with our fathers, with society and even with the government.

“We went through a hard situation just to be able to continue our education.

“At that time at least I was happy that I could graduate from university and achieve my dreams. But, now how can I convince myself?”

Afghanistan’s economy has been largely dependent on foreign aid in recent decades, but aid agencies have partly – and in some cases fully – withdrawn support to the education sector after the Taliban refused to allow girls into secondary schools.

Many of the teaching staff who remain go unpaid for months.

The latest measures are likely to cause further concerns in the international community.

The US and other Western countries have made improvements to female education in Afghanistan a prior condition for the formal recognition of the Taliban government.

US Deputy UN Ambassador Robert Wood condemned the Taliban’s latest actions.

“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans,” he said.

“Especially the human rights and fundamental freedom of women and girls.”

In November, the authorities banned women from parks in the capital Kabul, claiming Islamic laws were not being followed there.

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