Afghan women will no longer be able to attend public or private universities in the nation, according to a new Taliban decree.
In a letter shared to multiple news organizations on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education said that schools in the country have been instructed by the Taliban, which seized power last year, to suspend women from attending classes until further notice.
The move comes several months after the new government said girls in the country would no longer be able to attend school beyond the sixth grade.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and Robert Wood, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, were among those who condemned Tuesday’s decision.
“It’s difficult to imagine how a country can develop, can deal with all of the challenges that it has, without the active participation of women and the education,” Guterres said, per the Associated Press.
The government’s crackdown on women’s rights is a reversal from previous pronouncements made by the militant group.
Last fall, the Taliban’s higher education minister said that Afghan women could continue to study at universities with caveats — that classrooms would be gender-segregated and Islamic dress mandatory.
The Taliban, which ruled from 1996 to 2001, previously banned women and girls from seeking an education.
The decades since the Taliban were ousted in the U.S. invasion in 2001 brought many changes for women and girls in the country — particularly those in the cities — who gained access to an education and were no longer required to wear full-length burqas.
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Shortly after the militants swept back to power in August 2021 and the U.S. withdrew its troops, many in the country fled; others went into hiding, fearing a loss of the way of life as they most recently knew it.
In the initial weeks after the takeover, Taliban officials did not outline their new requirements.