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Women banned from school in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s Minister for higher education, Neda Nadeem,

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have declared the country’s universities  “off limits” to women.

Announcing the ban on Thursday, the Minister for higher education, Neda Nadeem,said it was because female students were not following instructions, including a “proper dress code. 

The ban is the latest restriction on women’s rights in Afghanistan ordered by the Taliban since their return to power in August, last year.

It has drawn global outrage, including from Muslim nations who deemed it against Islam, and from the Group of Seven industrialised democracies who said the prohibition may amount to “a crime against humanity”.

But Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the minister for higher education, insisted on Thursday that women students had ignored Islamic instructions — including on what to wear or being accompanied by a male relative when traveling.

“Unfortunately after the passing of 14 months, the instructions of the Ministry of Higher Education of the Islamic Emirate regarding the education of women were not implemented,” the minister said in an interview on state television.

“They were dressing like they were going to a wedding. Those girls who were coming to universities from home were also not following instructions on hijab.”

The higher education minister also said some science subjects were not suitable for women.

“Engineering, agriculture and some other courses do not match the dignity and honor of female students and also Afghan culture,” he said.

The authorities had also decided to shut those madrassas that were teaching only women students but were housed inside mosques, Mr Nadeem said.

A BBC report said the ban on university education came less than three months after thousands of women students were allowed to sit university entrance exams, many aspiring for teaching and medicine as future careers.

Secondary schools for girls have been closed across most of the country for over a year also temporarily, according to the Taliban, although they have offered a litany of excuses for why they haven’t re-opened.

Women have slowly been squeezed out of public life since the Taliban’s return, pushed out of many government jobs or paid a fraction of their former salary to stay at home.

They are also barred from traveling without a male relative and must cover up in public, and are prohibited from going to parks, fairs, gyms and public baths.

The Taliban’s treatment of women including its latest move to restrict university access for them drew fierce reaction from the G7, whose ministers demanded the ban be reversed.

“Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban,” the leaders said.

The international community has made the right to education for all women a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition of the Taliban regime.

Saudi Arabia, a leading Moslem nation, also expressed “astonishment and regret” at the ban, urging the Taliban to reverse it.

But Mr Nadeem hit back at the international community, saying it should “not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs”.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Tony Okerafor