Universities ready to readmit female students but decision rests with Akhundzada, says Taliban official

An official of the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education has said that the country’s universities are ready to re-admit female students, but the decision on when to reopen the universities rests with the group’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Mawlawi Abdul Jabbar, the advisor to the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education, told the Associated Press on Saturday that universities are prepared to re-admit female students as soon as the ban is lifted by Hibatullah Akhundzada. however, he was unable to say when or if that would happen.

“Akhundzada ordered that the universities be closed, so they closed,” Jabbar said. “When he says they are open; they will open the same day. All our leaders are in favor of restarting girls’ education, even our ministers are in favor of it.”

“It is only because of our obedience to Akhundzada that we are following his orders,” he added.

Jabbar said that the universities have made preparations to accommodate female students, including separate classrooms and transportation. He said that the universities could operate with different start times for male and female students, or with male students in the morning and female students in the afternoon.

The Taliban’s Minister for Higher Education, Neda Mohammad Nadim, had described the ban on female students as a temporary measure until the group could find solutions to issues such as gender segregation, course material, and dress codes. He had said that universities would reopen for women once these issues were resolved.

The Taliban made similar promises about reopening girls’ high schools, saying that classes would resume once “technical issues” around uniforms and transportation were resolved. However, girls are still being denied access to classrooms.

The Taliban has a history of restricting women’s rights. During their first rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban confined women to their homes and banned them from attending school and universities or working outside the home.

When the Taliban regained power in August 2021, they imposed a number of restrictions on women’s rights, including a ban on girls attending secondary school. In December 2022, the Taliban further extended these restrictions to deny women and girls access to university education and work for NGOs.

Despite significant pressure from human rights organizations, aid providers, and Islamic countries to lift these bans, the Taliban has continued imposing additional restrictions on women’s rights.