In a strong response to the Afghan Taliban’s decision to ban women from higher education, Pakistan’s Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai said Wednesday the group cannot “lock up women’s minds”.
Female university students in the country were turned away from campuses following the Taliban’s decision, which was another assault on human rights.
The United States, United Kingdom, Qatar, Pakistan, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) were among those who condemned the move.
In her tweet, Malala said: “The Taliban may lock all the classrooms and university gates in the country — but they can never lock up women’s minds.”
“They cannot stop girls from seeking knowledge. They cannot kill the quest to learn,” the young education activist added.
Despite promising a softer rule when they seized power last year, the group has ratcheted up restrictions on all aspects of women’s lives, ignoring international outrage.
The decision to bar women from universities came late Tuesday in a terse announcement from Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the minister for higher education.
“You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice,” he said.
In November, women were prohibited from going to parks, fairs, gyms and public baths.
The international community has made the right to education for all women a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition of the Taliban regime.
In a statement, Pakistan condemned Afghan authorities’ decision to suspend and urged them to revisit the ruling.
“Pakistan is disappointed to learn about the suspension of university and higher education for female students in Afghanistan,” an official statement from the Foreign Office read, adding that Pakistan’s position on the issue has been “clear and consistent”.
The FO added that “every man and woman has the inherent right to education in accordance with the injunctions of Islam.”
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a tweet, said that Pakistan was disappointed to learn about the suspension of the university and higher education for female students in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan’s position on this issue has been clear and consistent. We strongly believe 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,” he added.