UN scraps travel ban waiver for two Taliban education officials

Diplomats say travel ban exemptions scrapped for two education officials over ban on girls attending secondary schools.

Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul
Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul [File: Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

The United Nations has effectively banned two Taliban officials from travelling internationally in response to the harsh restrictions the group has imposed on Afghan women and girls, diplomats have said.

Travel exemptions permitting 15 Taliban officials to go abroad for talks and negotiations were set to expire on Monday.

For 13 officials, the travel exemptions were extended for at least two months, but they were scrapped for two education officials in response to the Taliban’s decision to ban secondary girls’ education.

The decision not to extend the exemptions was first reported by the AFP news agency. Diplomats confirmed to Al Jazeera that the UN Security Council decided that most senior Taliban officials should still be allowed to travel internationally – but the waiver to a travel ban that was previously enforced will no longer include two officials in charge of education in Afghanistan.

Diplomats said the exemptions for Minister of Higher Education Abdul Baqi Basir Awal Shah (also known as Abdul Baqi Haqqani) and acting Deputy Education Minister Said Ahmad Shaidkhel were not renewed due to policies barring Afghan girls from attending secondary schools.

The latest waiver applies for a period of 60 days – with a further 30-day renewal expected unless Security Council members raise objections.

Since seizing power in August, the Taliban have rolled back marginal gains made by Afghan women during the past two decades, limiting their access to education, government jobs and freedom of movement.

Afghanistan’s supreme leader also ordered the country’s women to cover their faces in public – one of the harshest measures imposed on them amid a wave of restrictions on women.

In March, Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhunzada ordered secondary schools for girls to shut, just hours after they reopened for the first time since the Taliban returned to power.

The decree, which stops hundreds of thousands of teenage girls from attending schools, met international outrage.

A top Taliban education official criticised the latest UN decision as “superficial and unjust”.

“Such decisions will only make the situation more critical,” Deputy Minister of Higher Education Lutfullah Khairkhwa told AFP.

After difficult negotiations, the UN’s Taliban Sanctions Committee compromised on an extension for the 13 other Taliban leaders for “60 days + 30 days,” diplomats told AFP.

Some countries were in favour of revoking all of the travel exemptions due to the deterioration of women’s rights, but others objected, according to diplomats.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies