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Taliban warn that women are not allowed to take university entrance exams


ISLAMABAD — The Taliban on Saturday doubled their ban on women’s education, a spokesperson said reinforced the message to private universities that Afghan women should not be allowed to take university entrance exams.

The note comes despite weeks of condemnation and lobbying by the international community for a rollback of measures restricting women’s freedoms, including two consecutive visits this month by several senior UN officials. It also bodes ill for hopes that the Taliban will soon be able to take steps to reverse their edicts.

The Taliban banned women from private and public universities last month. The minister of higher education in the Taliban-led government, Nida Mohammed Nadim, has insisted the ban is necessary to prevent gender mixing in universities — and because he believes some of the subjects being taught violate Islamic principles .

Work was being done to solve these problems and universities would reopen to women once they were solved, he had said in a TV interview.

The Taliban have made similar promises about access to middle school and high school for girls, saying classes would resume for them once the “technical issues” surrounding uniforms and transportation were resolved. But girls stay out of class beyond sixth grade.

Ziaullah Hashmi, spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, said on Saturday that a letter has been sent out reminding private universities not to allow women to take entrance exams. He gave no further details.

A copy of the letter, shared with The Associated Press, warned that women could not take the “entrance test for bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate levels” and that if a university fails to comply with the edict, “legal action will be taken against the violator” .

The letter was signed by Mohammad Salim Afghan, the government official who oversees student affairs at private universities.

Entrance exams begin on Sunday in some provinces, while elsewhere in Afghanistan they begin on February 27. Universities all over Afghanistan follow a different timetable due to seasonal differences.

Mohammed Karim Nasari, spokesman for the private universities union, said last month that dozens of private universities are at risk of closing because of the ban.

Afghanistan has 140 private universities in 24 provinces, with approximately 200,000 students. Of these, about 60,000 to 70,000 are women. About 25,000 people work at the universities.

Earlier this week, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and leaders of two major international aid agencies visited Afghanistan, following last week’s visit by a delegation led by the UN’s highest-ranking woman, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. The visits had the same purpose: to try to reverse the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls, including their ban on Afghan women from working for national and global humanitarian organizations.

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