Saudi Arabia calls on Taliban to reverse the ban on women attending university

Saudi Arabia called on the Taliban on Wednesday to reverse its decision to ban women from pursuing higher education in Afghanistan.

The kingdom’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement on Wednesday night that the Taliban’s decision “is contrary to giving Afghan women their full legitimate rights, foremost of which is the right to education.”

According to the statement, the ministry expresses “astonishment and regret at the decision” by the Taliban to bar women from attending university in Afghanistan.

The statement noted that such a move is “astonishing in all Islamic countries”. The ministry stated that education for women “contributes to supporting security, stability, development and prosperity for Afghanistan.”

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban-run higher education ministry suspended access to universities by female students until further notice, drawing strong condemnation from around the world.

OIC condemns decision
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Hissein Brahim Taha also spoke out about the decision and “expressed his grave concern and denunciation of this disconcerting decision”.

In a series of tweets, Taha said: “The move by the de facto government through its ministry of higher education is all the more dismaying for the OIC, as the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Afghanistan have both repeatedly and insistently cautioned the de facto authorities against taking such a decision.”

The education university in Kabul.

According to the OIC, the latest such cautionary message was relayed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan during his visit to Kabul in mid-November 2022.

“Suspending access by female students to Afghanistan’s universities, Taha believes, will go a long way in seriously denting the credibility of the government in place, just as it will deny Afghan girls and women their fundamental rights to education, employment, and social justice,” the OIC stated.

The OIC said that while it is still committed to its engagement policy with the Taliban, the organization “cannot but denounce the decision”. The OIC also called on the Taliban to reverse its decision for the sake of maintaining consistency between their promises and actual decisions.

Qatar ‘deeply concerned and disappointed’

Qatar also spoke out against the move and in a statement issued by the ministry of foreign affairs, said “the State of Qatar “expresses deep concern and disappointment with the Afghan caretaker government’s decision to suspend girls’ and women’s studies in Afghan universities until further notice”.

“These negative practices will have a significant impact on human rights, development, and the economy in Afghanistan,” Doha’s foreign ministry said.

“As a Muslim country in which women enjoy all their rights, especially education, the state of Qatar calls on the Afghan caretaker government to review its decision in line with the teachings of the Islamic religion concerning women’s rights.”

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson also denounced the decision and tweeted that the ban was “against the spirit of Islam” and had “no place in religion”.