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The Taliban's Stranglehold on Women's Right to Education Tightens

Afghan female students take entrance exams at Kabul University in Kabul, before the ban on university and primary schools was enforced (AFP)

As the second year of the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan unfolds, the state of human rights in the country, particularly the social and civic rights of women and young girls, continues to deteriorate. On August 23, 2023, Taliban authorities halted the travel plans of one hundred female students at Kabul International Airport, preventing their journey to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. These young women were recipients of higher education scholarships generously offered by Emirati business magnate and philanthropist Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor.

Al Habtoor had extended his support to cover all expenses for these Afghan students, enabling them to pursue their studies at the University of Dubai. After a rigorous selection process, these students from Afghanistan were admitted as deserving scholarship recipients. Despite possessing all the necessary travel documentation and being accompanied by a male family member (mahram), a mandatory requirement for women's public presence under Taliban rule, as of September 12, only three of these students have successfully left Afghanistan and arrived in Dubai. The fate of the remaining 97 students, who find themselves under the watchful gaze of the Taliban, remains shrouded in uncertainty.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing efforts to solidify a theocratic gender apartheid regime in Afghanistan. Last year, Taliban officials barred Afghan women and girls from pursuing educational opportunities in neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan without the presence of a male family member. Since then, there have been numerous instances where Taliban authorities thwarted the aspirations of female students, whether they had a male escort or not, to pursue their education abroad.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) stands in unwavering solidarity with the Afghan students and scholars whose lives, academic pursuits, and careers have been tragically disrupted since the return of the Taliban to power. We firmly denounce the establishment of a gender apartheid regime in Afghanistan, which effectively dismantles the fundamental rights to education, freedom of movement, and academic freedom for the female population. In conjunction with the international community, we call upon the Afghan government to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights treaties. These actions include lifting the unjustifiable travel restrictions imposed on women and young girls, securing the release of unlawfully detained scholars, students, and advocates of democracy, ensuring unrestricted access to humanitarian aid and protection, and upholding the right to education and freedom of expression for all.


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