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UN urges Taliban to drop ‘unfathomable’ restrictions on women after university ban

The UN Security Council on Tuesday decried increasing restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan, urging the country’s Taliban rulers to reverse them immediately.

The Security Council “reiterated its deep concern of the suspension of schools beyond the sixth grade, and its call for the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan,” it said in a media statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk pointed to “terrible consequences” of a decision to bar women from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Last week, Taliban authorities stopped university education for women, sparking international outrage and demonstrations in Afghan cities. On Saturday, they announced the exclusion of women from NGO work, a move that already has prompted four major international aid agencies to suspend operations in Afghanistan.

“No country can develop — indeed survive — socially and economically with half its population excluded,” Turk said in a statement issued in Geneva. “These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan’s borders.”

“This latest decree by the de facto authorities will have terrible consequences for women and for all Afghan people,” Turk said, adding that banning women from working for NGOs will deprive them and their families of incomes and of the right to “contribute positively” to the country’s development.

WATCHAfghan-Canadian documents dismantling of women’s rights under Taliban

Afghan-Canadian documents dismantling of women’s rights under Taliban

The Taliban-run Afghan higher education ministry says female students would not be allowed access to the country’s universities until further notice. Frozan Rahmani, an Afghan-Canadian journalist, has been documenting the dismantling of women’s rights in the country since the Taliban took control of Kabul in the summer of 2021.

“The ban will significantly impair, if not destroy, the capacity of these NGOs to deliver the essential services on which so many vulnerable Afghans depend,” he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Twitter on Tuesday that the restrictions were “unjustifiable human rights violations and must be revoked.” He added: “Actions to exclude and silence women and girls continue to cause immense suffering and major setbacks to the potential of the Afghan people.”

Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women and minorities when they took power last year, the Taliban have widely implemented their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

Girls in Afghanistan have been banned from middle school and high school since March. Women have been restricted from most employment and have been ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms.

“Women and girls cannot be denied their inherent rights,” Turk said. “Attempts by the de facto authorities to relegate them to silence and invisibility will not succeed — it will merely harm all Afghans, compound their suffering and impede the country’s development.

WATCH | Dreams ‘gone in a moment’ after Taliban takeover, Afghan woman says: 

Afghan woman deplores loss of girls’ education

Marwa Dashti fled Afghanistan a year ago as the Taliban recaptured the country and bemoaned the loss of her friends’ education there. ‘They don’t see a future,’ she said.

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