KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to ban women from universities — a decree that had triggered a global backlash.
Discussing the matter for the first time in public, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. He said the ban was in place until further notice.
In an interview with Afghan television, Nadim pushed back against the widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Nadim said that foreigners should stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign ministers of the G-7 group of states urged the Taliban to rescind the ban, warning that “gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity.” The ministers warned after a virtual meeting that “Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban.” The G-7 group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
A former provincial governor, police chief and military commander, Nadim was appointed minister in October by the supreme Taliban leader and previously pledged to stamp out secular schooling. Nadim opposes female education, saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values.
Other reasons he gave for the university ban were women’s failure to observe a dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses.
“We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn’t and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony,” he said. “Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn’t match Afghan culture. Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor.”
He added that work was underway to fix these issues and universities would reopen for women once they were resolved. The Taliban made similar promises about high school access for girls, saying classes would resume for them once “technical issues” around uniforms and transport were sorted out, but girls remain shut out of classrooms.