Taliban-led Afghan administration suspends women from universities

KABUL, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban-run Ministry of Higher Education on Tuesday suspended university access for female students until further notice, drawing strong condemnation from the United States, Britain and the United Nations. United.

A letter, confirmed by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education, instructed Afghan public and private universities to immediately suspend access to female students, in line with a Cabinet decision.

The announcement by the Taliban administration, which has not been recognized internationally, came as the United Nations Security Council was meeting in New York on Afghanistan.

Foreign governments, including the United States, have said a change in policies on women’s education is needed before it can consider formally recognizing the Taliban-led administration, which is also subject to heavy sanctions.

“The Taliban cannot hope to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, especially the human rights and fundamental freedom of women and girls,” the US Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan told the council. the UN, Robert Wood, and described the measure as “absolutely indefensible”.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States will look at what more it can do to hold the Taliban to account.

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said the suspension was “another appalling restriction on women’s rights and a deep, deep disappointment for all female students.”

“It is also another step by the Taliban away from a prosperous and self-sufficient Afghanistan,” he told the council.

In March, the Taliban drew criticism from many foreign and some Afghan governments for making a U-turn on signs that all girls’ secondary schools would open.

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UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday’s move was “clearly another broken promise by the Taliban.”

“It’s another very worrying measure and it’s hard to imagine how the country can develop, face all the challenges it has, without the active participation of women and the education of women,” she told reporters in New York.

The UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said in a statement that the decision was “devastating”.

Shortly before the Kabul announcement, Otunbayeva told the Security Council that the closure of secondary schools had “undermined” the Taliban administration’s relationship with the international community and was “extremely unpopular among Afghans and even Taliban leaders.” .

“As long as girls continue to be excluded from school and the de facto authorities continue to ignore other concerns expressed by the international community, we will remain in something of a dead end,” he said.

The decision was made when many university students were taking end-of-term exams. The mother of a university student, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said her daughter called her in tears when she heard about the letter, fearing that she would no longer be able to continue her medical studies in Kabul.

“The pain that not only I… and (other) mothers have in our hearts, could not be described. We are all feeling this pain, they are worried about the future of their children,” she said.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Additional reporting and writing by Michelle Nichols; Edited by Alexander Smith, Jonathan Oatis, and Cynthia Osterman

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