Taliban officials sent a letter to private universities over the weekend warning them not to allow women and girls to take entry exams, doubling down on a directive last month barring female students from higher education.
It’s the latest blow for women and girls in Afghanistan after the U.S. pulled out of the country in August 2021.
The country’s new religious rulers, who adhere to a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law, have banned girls from attending middle and high school, limited a woman’s ability to travel without a male chaperone, and prohibited women from working outside the home aside from a few sectors.
“These restrictions present Afghan women and girls with a future that confines them in their own homes, violating their rights and depriving the communities of their services,” United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said this month after meeting with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, a letter sent to private universities warned that women are not allowed to take the “entry test for bachelor, master and doctorate levels.”
If any university disobeys the order, then “legal action will be taken against the violator,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Associated Press.
The ban on women in higher education has been met with criticism by other countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Last month, the Taliban also banned foreign and Afghan women from working in nongovernmental organizations, a move that aid groups have warned could worsen a deepening economic crisis throughout the country.
The Taliban recaptured power in Afghanistan in the wake of President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.