Women university students in Afghanistan were turned away from campuses on Wednesday after the Taliban administration said women would be suspended from tertiary education.
The decision to bar women was announced on Tuesday evening in a letter to universities from the higher education ministry, drawing condemnation from foreign governments and the United Nations.
The UN’s mission in Afghanistan asked the Taliban administration to “immediately” revoke the decision.
Students and witnesses said that the presence of security forces outside universities was higher than usual and female students were told to leave by armed Taliban forces, even if they were going to complete administrative tasks.
“We went to university, the Taliban were at the gate and told us, ‘You are not allowed to enter the university until further notice’ … everyone was crying,” said Shaista, a business studies student at a private university in Kabul.
According to the announcement, the decision was made by the Taliban administration’s cabinet.
Several Taliban officials, including the deputy foreign minister and administration spokesperson, have spoken in favour of female education in recent months.
The Taliban’s supreme spiritual leader, based in the southern city of Kandahar, has the final say on major decisions.
Most girls are unable to go to school beyond primary classes. The Taliban administration has said it is working on a plan for girls’ secondary education but has not given a timeframe.