UN alarmed by new restrictions on girls' education in Afghanistan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has warned of new widespread restrictions on women’s education in Afghanistan, calling them “another appalling and cruel blow to women’s rights”.

Quoted in a statement, he said that “the decision reported by the de facto authorities in Afghanistan to ban women from going to university is another appalling and cruel blow to the rights of Afghan women and girls”, noting that it is a “deeply regrettable setback for the entire country”.

According to the High Commissioner, this suspension constitutes a flagrant violation of Afghanistan’s obligations under international law. “The right of women and girls to access all levels of education without discrimination is fundamental and indisputable”he said.

The Taliban authorities announced on Tuesday that Afghan universities were now prohibited for girls, who have already been deprived of secondary education in Afghanistan since the accession to power of the Islamists.

A systematic exclusion without equivalent in the world

The Head of Human Rights therefore calls on the Afghan de facto authorities to immediately reverse this decision and fully respect and facilitate the right of women and girls to access education at all levels. ” For their good and for the good of the whole Afghan society,” supports it.

More broadly, the “systematic exclusion” of women and girls from virtually every aspect of life, “is unparalleled anywhere in the world”. “In addition to the ban on girls from attending secondary school, just think of all the female doctors, lawyers and teachers who have been, and will be, lost to the development of the country,” Turk lamented.

For its part, UN-Women protested, in a press release, against “this appalling and short-sighted decision”. For Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN-Women, “women have always played a key role in the development of Afghanistan and in supporting its peace, security and resilience”.

“Faced with incredible challenges, Afghan women have continued to go to university. These institutions were among the last places where they could meet and continue to learn. To end higher education for women is to ignore their historical contributions and cut them off from their future potential as well as from the potential of their country”she said.

Guterres ‘alarmed’ by ban

For his part, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply alarmed” by the Taliban’s ban on women from going to university in Afghanistan and urged them to “ensure equal access to education at all levels”.

A devastating impact on the future of the country

“The Secretary-General reiterates that the denial of education not only violates equal rights for women and girls, but will have a devastating impact on the future of the country”, said his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric in a press release. It urges the de facto authorities to guarantee equal access for women and girls to education at all levels.

For her part, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan had described this decision as “prejudicial” to women, but also to Afghanistan as a whole. Quoted in a press release, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said “very saddened by the widely circulated news this morning that the Taliban Minister of Higher Education has banned women from attending universities.”

After the banning of secondary education for girls last March, “another harsh decision was taken to ban university education”, Otunbayeva regretted that “the Taliban don’t seem to think about the future of Afghanistan and how women can contribute to the economy, education and culture”.

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