SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 20, 2022

Attack Types: Other


Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 20, 2022, the Taliban ordered an indefinite ban on higher education for women.

Prior to the ban, Taliban officials had been taking increasing steps to limit women’s access to higher education since taking over Afghanistan’s government in August 2021. These included an order the segregation of classes by gender at higher education institutions (see report), a decree requiring women to cover their faces and only show their eyes in public, and an order barring women from selecting a wide range of subjects for university entrance examinations (see report).

On December 20, the Ministry of Higher Education issued a letter, signed by Minister of Higher Education Neda Mohammad Nadeem, to all public and private higher education institutions, informing the institutions to implement the order of “suspending education of females until further notice.” Nadeem stated on Afghan television that women’s education is against Afghan and Islamic views and that female students failed to follow the Taliban’s dress code and only study subjects deemed appropriate for women.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about government orders that deny women the right to education and academic freedom, which are expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to provide and protect the right to education and academic freedom and must refrain from policies that restrict the same. Efforts to bar students from higher education on the basis of gender undermine academic freedom, the right to education, and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On January 28, 2023, the Taliban issued a letter to private universities reminding them to not permit women to take entrance exams. The letter warned that if any university were to disobey, they would face legal action.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)