Taliban strikes again against women: no more scholarships

„After the Taliban shut universities for women, my only hope was to get a scholarship which would help me study abroad”, says 20-year-old Afghan student Natkai (under a pseudonym).

This represents another brick in the wall in the Taliban’s comapign against women’s liberties.

Natkai says she kept studying even though there was little chance of her ever attending university in her homeland. She was granted a scholarship to study at the University of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Emirati billionaire businessman Sheikh Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, after scholarships for Afghan women were announced in December 2022 in light of the Taliban banning women from university.

According to the BBC, a total of 100 Afghan women have been successful in gaining these scholarships. Some Afghan students living abroad have already travelled to Dubai.

„When the Taliban officials saw our tickets and student visas, they said girls are not allowed to leave Afghanistan on student visas”, was the situation Natkai encountered at the airport, along with around 60 other girls, who experienced shock and devastation similar to her own. The rest of the students were too frightened to talk to the media.

The Taliban has banned solo travel for women and only allow them to go abroad with their husbands or a related male companion such as a brother, uncle or father, known as a mahram, a male escort.

The brother of one such girl is quoted as having said: „The scholarship gave new hope to my sister after the universities were closed here. She left home with hope and returned in tears. All her rights have been taken away.”

He stated that some of the women even borrowed money to pay for a visa for a male companion to accompany them but were still stopped: „Some of these girls are so helpless and poor. They don’t even have 400 Afghanis (£4; $5) for the document verification fee requested by the foreign affairs ministry”.

„This is an important and alarming step beyond the extraordinary level of cruelty the Taliban already engage in by denying girls and women education”, says Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch.

The former United Nations youth representative from Afghanistan, Shkula Zadran, has posted a message urging the university not to give up on the girls.

The Taliban have not issued any statement or clarification.A senior Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, also declined to comment, saying he was travelling and did not have any information.

Meanwhile, A spokesperson for the Vice and Virtue ministry,Mohammad Sadiq Akif Muhajir, told the BBC they were not aware of the incident.

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