Women are banned from attending university in Afghanistan, according to Taliban officials. Female students were barred entry from classes across the country on Wednesday after universities received a letter from the Afghan education ministry declaring the ban on Tuesday.
The BBC reports that the education minister said the decision was made after government scholars evaluated the curriculum and university environments and found the conditions inappropriate. The ban will remain until a “suitable environment” is provided.
Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the Taliban minister of higher education, said on state television the ban was implemented because female students were not following the dress code, the BBC reports.
“They were dressing like they were going to a wedding,” he said.
The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan after U.S. forces left the country in August 2021. The Islamic fundamentalist militant group has a history of poor treatment of women. After reestablishing control last year, the Taliban had said it would respect the rights of women and girls but, within weeks, banned girls from attending secondary schools across the country.
Islamic governments worldwide have criticized the Taliban’s ban. Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted the prohibition was “against the spirit of Islam” and had “no place in religion.” The United Arab Emirates U.N. Ambassador Amiera al-Hefeiti condemned the decision during a U.N. session on Afghanistan Tuesday.
Qatar expressed “deep concern and disappointment” in a statement, the Middle East Eye reports. Qatar supports Afghanistan, working as a liaison between the Taliban and the U.S. government.
The ban on education for women has sparked more interest in the Taliban and its relationship with Qatar, especially in the conversation around education. It was reported in February by both The Telegraph and The Guardian that high-ranking Taliban officials have been sending their daughters to Qatar for school while simultaneously preventing Afghan women from obtaining an education.
The first reports of Taliban officials sending their daughters overseas for school came from a February Afghan Analysis Network report. The report states multiple Taliban officials have daughters in school outside of Afghanistan.
The report lists examples, including a daughter of a Taliban official studying medicine at a Qatari university and members of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar are sending their daughters to school.
AAN reports other Taliban members working in Qatar have left their families in the country when returning to Afghanistan so as not to pull their children out of school. Some officials send their children, regardless of gender, to schools in neighboring Iraq and Pakistan.
“Education allows them to live a good life. They know the rights of a husband better and can better train your sons and daughters. This is why a literate wife is a necessity nowadays,” a Taliban minister told AAN. However, millions of girls and women in Afghanistan have been stopped from attending school. In August, the Middle East Eye reported the Taliban stopped 60 girls from flying to Qatar to go to school.
Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Wednesday expressing concern, calling the ban a “negative practice.”
“As a Muslim country in which women enjoy all their rights, especially education, the state of Qatar calls on the Afghan caretaker government to review its decision in line with the teachings of the Islamic religion concerning women’s rights,” the statement reads.
There is no word on if Doha will retaliate against the Taliban’s decision beyond the release of the statement.
The BBC reports that female students protested the university ban on Thursday but were met by security personnel and beaten.