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The Taliban prevent women from taking university entrance exams in Afghanistan


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The Taliban has announced that it will prevent female students from taking university entrance exams in Afghanistan for the 2023 academic year, according to the letter it sent to private universities and higher education institutions on Saturday.

The memorandum comes despite weeks of condemnation and pressure from the international community to reverse measures restricting women’s freedoms, including two consecutive visits by several senior UN officials this month. Nor does it bode well for hopes that the Taliban will take steps to revoke their edicts anytime soon.

The Taliban banned women from entering private and public universities last month. The Taliban government’s minister of higher education, Nida Muhammad Nadeem, asserted that the ban was necessary to prevent mixing of the sexes in universities – and because he believed that some of the subjects being taught violated Islamic principles.

He said in a television interview that work is underway to fix these problems, and universities will open their doors to women as soon as they are resolved.

The Taliban have made similar promises about girls’ access to middle and high schools, saying classes will resume for them once “technical issues” with uniforms and transportation are settled. But the girls are still out of the classroom after the sixth grade.

Ministry of Higher Education spokesman Ziaullah Hashmi said on Saturday that a letter has been sent reminding private universities not to allow women to take entrance exams. He did not give enough details.

A copy of the letter, shared with the Associated Press (AP), warned that women could not take “admission testing for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels” and that if any university disobeyed the decision, “legal action will be taken against the violator.”

The letter was signed by Mohammad Salem Afghani, a government official overseeing student affairs in private universities.

Entrance exams start on Sunday in some provinces, while in other places in Afghanistan, they start on February 27. Universities across Afghanistan follow a different schedule of classes due to seasonal differences.

Mohamed Karim Nasari, a spokesperson for the Federation of Private Universities, said last month that dozens of private universities face the risk of closing due to the ban.

Afghanistan has 140 private universities in 24 provinces, with about 200,000 students. Of these, approximately 60,000 to 70,000 are women. Universities employ about 25,000 people.

Earlier this week, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths and leaders of two major international aid organizations visited Afghanistan, following a visit last week by a delegation led by Ms. Amina Mohammed, the UN’s highest-ranking woman. The visits had the same goal – to try to reverse the Taliban’s campaign against women and girls, including its ban on Afghan women working for national and global humanitarian organisations.

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