Blinken calls on Taliban to reverse ban on women at universities

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference on Dec. 22, 2022.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday the Taliban are sentencing Afghanistan’s women “to a dark future without opportunity” by banning them from attending universities.

Speaking at a news conference, Blinken said the Taliban-run administration will fail in its efforts to improve relations with the rest of the world unless the militants reverse the ban.

“I think what you’ve already heard is a chorus of condemnation from around the world and not only from us, but from countries virtually every continent, including Muslim countries, which I think is in and of itself important and powerful,” Blinken said. “What they’ve done is to try to sentence Afghan women and girls to a dark future without opportunity.”

“There are going to be costs if this is not reversed, if this is not changed. I’m not going to detail them today. But we will pursue them in coordination with allies and partners. And I can tell you as well that any prospect that the Taliban seeks for improved relations with with the world, with the international community, which is something that they want and we know that they need, that is not going to happen if they continue on this course,” he added.

Taliban’s higher education minister Neda Mohammad Nadim on Thursday outlined a number of reasons for which they closed universities for women in Afghanistan.

In an interview with RTA – the Taliban-run TV channel – he said the group’s leadership had taken the decision as universities had not followed through on the Taliban’s instructions over the past 16 months.


The decision by Taliban sparked widespread reactions at national and international levels.

Among Muslim nations that sought the reversal of the decision are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Islamabad strongly believes “that every man and woman has the inherent right to education in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. We strongly urge the Afghan authorities to revisit this decision.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday at a press conference that “the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities in Afghanistan has no basis in Islam.”

He said: “Their decision is a source of serious concern,” and that “this ban is neither Islamic nor humanistic. Islam encourages education.”

Saudi Arabia, which until 2019 enforced sweeping restrictions on women’s travel, employment and other crucial aspects of their daily life including driving, also urged the Taliban to change course.

The Saudi foreign ministry expressed “astonishment and regret” at Afghan women being denied a university education and said in a statement the decision was “astonishing in all Islamic countries.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation meanwhile said the decision jeopardized international efforts to engage with the Taliban in the interest of the Afghan people.

“The UAE reaffirms that this decision, as well as the earlier bans on girls from accessing secondary education, violate fundamental human rights, contravene the teachings of Islam, and must be swiftly reversed,” said the ministry in a statement.

Lana Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, said: “The decision is the latest example of the restrictions imposed on Afghan women and girls since August 2021 aimed at their erasure from public life.”

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, said in a series of tweets on Thursday that it “is deeply concerned and disappointed with the decision of Taliban to suspend access to university education for women in Afghanistan”.

The ministry of foreign affairs said: “Education is a fundamental right for all men and women. Indonesia continues to urge Taliban to provide undisrupted access to education for women.

“Indonesia strongly believes that women’s participation in all aspects of society is crucial to the attainment of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan,” their statement read.