HomeWorldUN Envoy Calls For Pressure on Taliban Over Women's College Ban

UN Envoy Calls For Pressure on Taliban Over Women’s College Ban

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  • Gordon Brown urges more leaders in Islamic countries to denounce a measure that bans Afghan women from accessing higher education.
UN Envoy Calls For Pressure on Taliban Over Women's College Ban
UN Envoy Calls For Pressure on Taliban Over Women’s College Ban (Image: Bilal Guler – Anadolu Agency)

The United Nations special envoy for global education has called on Islamic countries to condemn a Taliban move banning female students from universities, the latest in a series of restrictions imposed on women in Afghanistan.

“This is one of the saddest days for those who are concerned about the rights of women and girls,” Gordon Brown said of this week’s decision by the Taliban-led Ministry of Higher Education.

In an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast on Friday, Brown said the Afghan economy would be hurt in the long run if women are not allowed to train as doctors, teachers, researchers, scientists, and other professionals.

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In the short term, the decision could lead women who have become accustomed to being “independent thinkers” to try to leave the country or submit to these rules, she said.

Brown, who previously served as UK prime minister, noted that while the West had limited influence over the Taliban-led government after two decades of conflict, Islamic countries could play a vital role in influencing Taliban policies towards greater inclusion.

In an editorial published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Brown noted that every country in the Muslim world except Taliban-led Afghanistan is publicly committed to the UN’s sustainable development goal of having access to “inclusive and equitable quality education” by 2030.

Several Muslim countries have already condemned the national ban.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that the ban was “neither Islamic nor humane.” Speaking at a joint press conference with his Yemeni counterpart, Cavusoglu urged the Taliban to reverse the decision.

“What harm is there in women’s education? What harm does it do to Afghanistan?” Cavusoglu said. “Is there an Islamic explanation? On the contrary, our religion, Islam, is not against education. On the contrary, it encourages education and science.”

Since returning to power after U.S. troops withdrew in 2021, the Taliban have backtracked on their pledge to guarantee girls’ rights to be educated and other freedoms.

In March, it banned girls from secondary education, later extending the limitations to primary education and eventually to higher education.

The group argues that its rules are in line with its interpretation of Islam.

Afghan students protested against the ban Friday in Kabul when Taliban staff blocked their access to classrooms.

The protests were quickly suppressed by security officials.


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