Skip to main content

Taliban prevents 100 Afghan female students from boarding flight to Dubai

The young women with scholarships have been barred from travel as they did not have a 'male chaperone' escorting them
Afghan female students take entrance exams at Kabul University in Kabul, before the ban on university and primary schools was enforced (AFP)

Members of the Taliban government barred 100 female Afghan students who were given a scholarship to study at the University of Dubai from boarding their flight to the UAE on Wednesday morning.

“I am unable to express the disappointment I feel now, as the Afghan female students, whom I had provided an educational scholarship in collaboration with the @uniofdubai presented by Dr Eesa Al Bastaki [the university’s president], were unfortunately unable to reach #DubaiAirport this morning to continue their studies due to Taliban’s interference,” Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor, the founding chairman of Al Habtoor Group, who sponsored the students, posted to X (formerly known as Twitter) on Wednesday.

In a video statement posted to X, al-Habtoor said he had been “eagerly anticipating” the student’s arrival. 

One of the students featured in al-Habtoor’s video message said in a voice note posted on X: “We are right now in the airport, but unfortunately the government don’t allow us to go to Dubai, they don’t allow those who don’t have a maharram (male chaperone).

“When [the Taliban] see the student visa and the student ticket, they don’t allow us,” the student continued. “I don’t know what to do. Please help us. We are so concerned about this matter.” 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


'I don’t know what to do. Please help us. We are so concerned about this matter'

- female Afghan student

Al-Habtoor, who is a prominent businessman in Dubai, said “unceasing efforts” were made by a collective group - Dubai University, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, police, and immigration services - to ensure flights, healthcare, accommodation, transport, security, and education, were fully arranged for the students.

“Our aspirations were crushed,” he said in the video. 

This is not the first time the Taliban have prevented female Afghan students from flying out of the country. In August last year, around 62 university students were prevented from boarding a flight to Qatar, simply because they were not travelling with male guardians.

Broken promise

In the Taliban’s first press conference following their takeover of the Afghan capital, Zabihullah Mujahid, the armed group’s spokesman, said the nascent government would uphold women's rights and media freedom, and promised amnesty for government officials and anyone who worked for international forces.

But the Taliban’s initial promises to protect women’s rights have fallen to the wayside, as women and young girls have been banned from attending universities and schools, pushing millions out of education. Beauty salons were shut down, and women have been prohibited from working. 

The move was widely condemned by governments around the world, including the UAE's deputy ambassador to the UN, Amiera al-Hefeiti, who strongly condemned the decision. 

“I cannot understand,” Al Habtoor said in his video statement regarding the 100 female students prevented from boarding their flight to Dubai.

“Women and men these days are equal, and from the time before Jesus Christ even, there was equality with each other. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad also. I mean I cannot understand how [the Taliban] are treating or translating the religion [Islam],” he added. 


Al-Habtoor's criticism of the Taliban's interpretation of Islam echoes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who denounced the Taliban’s order to ban university and primary education for Afghanistan's women in January as “unIslamic”.

UN envoy urges ICC to prosecute Taliban's gender discrimination
Read More »

The businessman pleaded with the Taliban to allow the students to travel to Dubai, and called for international assistance to resolve the matter.

“I am sad today of this decision,” Al Habtoor continued in the video. “I hope the Taliban government is going to reconsider my request to allow [the students] to come. They have the right to study, they have the right to do whatever the men can do, and there is no exception to that.

“I beg every country in the world if they can interfere,” he said.

The refusal to grant the female students permission to leave comes months after Afghanistan's Taliban government appointed a new consul general to the UAE in a tentative step toward formalising ties with the Gulf country.

The UAE cut ties with the Taliban following 9/11. After the US withdrew its forces in August 2021 and the Taliban seized power again after 20 years, the two sides nurtured a steady relationship although the Taliban government is yet to be formally recognised by any nation.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.