The Taliban has banned girls from primary school, effectively banning all women from education across Afghanistan.
At a Kabul gathering with school directors on Wednesday, the Taliban also banned female staff – including teachers.
This decision has closed off one of the only professions that remained open to women in the country, which has become more extremist since the hard-line movement took power last year.
Alongside a newly instituted ban on women at Afghanistan’s universities, this comprises a near-total ban on the education of women.
Female students react against the Taliban’s ban on university education for women on Wednesday. The ban was introduced on Tuesday and a subsequent decision banning primary school girls has created an effective total ban on the education of women in Afghanistan
Empty seats reserved for female students at Mirwais Neeka Institute of Higher Education in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Wednesday
The extremist government also said women could no longer visit mosques or attend seminaries.
Taliban officials at the meeting included representatives from the police, the national intelligence agency and the ministry for the propagation of virtue and prevention of vice.
The Taliban did not make an official statement and the ministries of education and higher education did not respond to requests for comment.
While all the movement’s previous bans on education have been ‘temporary’, none have been removed.
Ghulam Sarwar Haidari, a shopkeeper in Kabul, told the Wall Street Journal his daughter Mahbooba was sent home when she arrived at the tutoring centre.
She was attending classes in preparation for the coming semester in fifth grade and hoped to study medicine.
‘My daughter has locked herself in a room since this morning and won’t stop crying,’ Mr. Haidari said.
‘All her hopes are broken. We are tired to death of this situation, and only wonder when it will be over.’
Fazil Rabi Askari, 47, who is a father to three girls, said his oldest daughter had been struggling since the ban on secondary education last year.
He now fears for the mental health of his younger daughter, who will also be banned from education.
‘Islam urges both men and women to seek knowledge. This act of the Taliban is clearly against the Islamic values and orders.
‘This decision has destroyed the dreams of a nation, and the dreams of my daughters.’
Girls were sent home from primary schools across the capital of Kabul.
Hundreds of young women were turned away from Afghan universities on Wednesday. The ban was introduced on Tuesday by the Minister for Higher Education
Male university students attend class divided by a curtain separating males and females on Wednesday after women were banned from entering campuses at a university in Kandahar Province
The country’s Minister for Higher Education, Neda Mohammad Nadeem, issued a letter to all government and private universities ordering for the change to be made
The Islamist leaders announced on Tuesday that women would be no longer allowed to attend university.
The decision to bar women from universities came late Tuesday in a terse announcement from Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the Minister for Higher Education.
‘You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice,’ it said.
Armed guards stopped female students from entering campuses on Wednesday, a day after the nation’s Taliban rulers banned them in another assault on human rights.
‘We are doomed. We have lost everything,’ said one student, who asked not to be identified.
A team of AFP journalists saw groups of students gathered outside universities in the capital, Kabul, barred from entering by armed guards and shuttered gates.
Many, dressed in hijabs, were also seen standing in groups on roads leading to the campuses.
Male students also expressed shock at the latest edict.
‘It really expresses their illiteracy and low knowledge of Islam and human rights,’ said one, also asking not to be named.
‘If the situation continues like this the future will be worse. Everyone is scared.’
Despite promising a softer rule when they seized power last year, the hardline Islamists have ratcheted up restrictions on all aspects of women’s lives, ignoring international outrage.
Many schools across Afghanistan were closed when the Taliban took over in August 2021.
Secondary school girls were told to remain at home when schools reopened and the expected announcement that they could return has not been made.
An Afghan female student leaves the Mirwais Neeka Institute of Higher Education in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Wednesday
Afghan female university students walk on their on way back home past a private university in Kabul on Wednesday
Women now need a male guardian to complete many basic tasks, including travelling more than 48 hours from their home and taking a taxi or even visiting a doctor.
The Taliban adhere to an austere version of Islam, with the movement’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of clerics against modern education, especially for girls and women.
But they are at odds with many officials in Kabul — and among their rank and file — who had hoped girls would be allowed to continue learning following the takeover.
The Taliban’s education ban has been met with universal outrage from international leaders.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted on Wednesday that the ‘world is watching’ the Taliban.
‘As a father to daughters, I cannot imagine a world in which they’re denied an education.
‘The women of Afghanistan have so much to offer. Denying them access to university is a grave step backwards.
‘The world is watching. We will judge the Taliban by their actions.’
Human rights campaign and Taliban survivor Malala said the Taliban would not be able to stop women learning.
‘The Taliban may lock all the classrooms and university gates in the country – but they can never lock up women’s minds.
‘They cannot stop girls from seeking knowledge. They cannot kill the quest to learn.’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, was ‘deeply alarmed’, his spokesman said Tuesday.
‘The secretary-general reiterates that the denial of education not only violates the equal rights of women and girls, but will have a devastating impact on the country’s future,’ Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.