Skip to main content

UN: 'Unfathomable' Taliban restrictions on women must end

UN High Commissioner says restrictions on women by the Taliban pose a risk beyond Afghanistan's borders
A student reads a book with her sister at their home in Kabul, Afghanistan on 23 December 2022 (AFP)

The United Nations is urging the Taliban to immediately revoke policies targeting girls and women in Afghanistan.

Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said: "No country can develop - indeed survive - socially and economically with half its population excluded."

"These unfathomable restrictions placed on women and girls will not only increase the suffering of all Afghans but, I fear, pose a risk beyond Afghanistan's borders."

Afghanistan: Middle East states condemn Taliban block on women going to university
Read More »

Turk continued in his statement to say such policies risked destabilising Afghan society.

"I urge the de facto authorities to ensure the respect and protection of the rights of all women and girls - to be seen, to be heard and to participate in and contribute to all aspects of the social, political and economic life of the country."

In addition, the UN Security Council denounced the ban on Tuesday saying the ban "represents an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

"These restrictions contradict the commitments made by the Taliban to the Afghan people as well as the expectations of the international community," the 15-member Security Council said. 

Female university students were turned away last week after academic institutions were sent a letter by the Afghan higher education ministry enforcing the exclusion of women from tertiary education. On Saturday, women were banned from working in non-governmental organisations. 

The move was widely condemned by governments around the world, including in the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry expressed "surprise and regret", and called on Kabul to reverse the latest move. 

According to Turk, the consequences of the Taliban's actions would be severe, as banning women from working in NGOs would "deprive" them and their families of their incomes and of the ability to contribute to the development of Afghanistan. 

He noted the ban would "significantly" impair the capacity of NGOs to deliver essential services, especially during the wintertime. 

"Women and girls cannot be denied their inherent rights," Turk said. "Attempts by the de facto authorities to relegate them to silence and invisibility will not succeed."

'Educating women is part of the solution'

Many well-known Islamic scholars took to social media to express their thoughts on the restrictions. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a preacher and the dean of academic affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute, wrote on Facebook that anyone who claims shariah prohibits women from being educated was wrong.

"And if there are issues with the environment or curriculum that some might fight problematic, the solution is to fix the secondary problems, rather than create larger ones by halting education on the mothers and sisters and daughters of a society.

"We have many battles to fight, in every land. I am not from that region, hence I cannot speak to specifics, and I can only talk as an outsider. But I do say that as a general rule, educating women is not a part of the problem, it is a part of the solution to any society's growth and thriving."

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.