Saudi Arabia calls on Taliban to reverse banning women from universities decision

Students walk along a street near the Kabul University after it was reopened in Kabul on Feb. 26, 2022.
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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia called on Afghan caretaker government to reverse its decision on banning women from pursuing higher education in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed surprise and regret of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the decision to deny Afghan girls the right to university education.

The Kingdom said, “This decision raises surprise in all Islamic countries.”

“Banning women from higher education contradicts with giving Afghan women their full legal rights, foremost of which is the right to education that contributes to supporting security, stability, development and prosperity for Afghanistan and its people,” the statement read.

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban-run higher Education Ministry suspended access to universities by female students until further notice, drawing strong condemnation from the United States, Britain and the United Nations.

It further restricts women’s access to formal education, as they were already excluded from most secondary schools.

OIC’s Taha expresses

his grave concern

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Hissein Brahim Taha expressed his grave concern and denunciation of this disconcerting decision by the de facto Administration in Afghanistan to close down universities for girls and women for an unspecified period.

The move by the de facto government through its Ministry of Higher Education is all the more dismaying for the OIC, as the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Afghanistan have both repeatedly and insistently cautioned the de facto authorities against taking such a decision.

The latest such cautionary message was relayed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan during his visit to Kabul in mid-November 2022.

Suspending access by female students to Afghanistan’s universities, Taha believes, will go a long way in seriously denting the credibility of the government in place, just as it will deny Afghan girls and women their fundamental rights to education, employment, and social justice.

The OIC, though still committed to its engagement policy with the de facto administration, cannot but denounce the decision, calling on Kabul authorities to reverse it for the sake of maintaining consistency between their promises and actual decisions.