The Taliban-run Ministry of Higher Education ordered private universities in Afghanistan not to allow female students to sit university entrance exams next month, underscoring its policy to restrict women from tertiary education.
A letter from the ministry was addressed to institutions in Afghanistan’s northern provinces, including Kabul, where exams are due to take place from the end of February. The letter said those institutions that did not observe the rules would face legal action.
The Higher Education Ministry in December told universities not to allow female students “until further notice”. Days later, the administration stopped most female NGO workers from working. Most girls’ highschools have also been closed by authorities.
The restrictions on women’s work and education have drawn condemnation internationally. Western diplomats have signalled the Taliban would need to change course on its policies towards women to have a chance of formal international recognition and an easing of its economic isolation.
The country is in the midst of an economic crisis, partly due to sanctions affecting its banking sector and a cut in development funding, with aid agencies warning tens of millions are in need of urgent aid.
However, a World Bank report this week also said the Taliban administration, which has said it is focussed on more economic self-sufficiency, had kept revenue collection strong last year and exports had lifted.