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: August 23, 2023

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):University of Dubai

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 23, 2023, Taliban authorities prevented around 60 women students from leaving the country to study at the University of Dubai.

In December 2022, after the Taliban banned women from attending university, the Al Habtoor Group – an engineering firm based in the United Arab Emirates that engages in philanthropy – announced scholarships for around 100 women students from Afghanistan to study at the University of Dubai. Some of the students who were awarded scholarships were already located outside of Afghanistan and successfully traveled to Dubai for their studies. However, around 60 women were turned away from the airport in Kabul when they arrived on August 23 to travel to Dubai. This included women who were traveling with a mahram, a male relative; the Taliban have banned women from international travel unless accompanied by a mahram. One woman who was turned away at the airport reported that the Taliban had told her that women were unable to leave the country on student visas.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on women students’ travel with the effect of denying them 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.