The Taliban have banned women from universities in Afghanistan, sparking international condemnation and despair among young people in the country.
The higher education minister announced the regression on Tuesday, saying it would take immediate effect.
The ban further restricts women’s education – girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned last year.
Some women staged protests in the capital Kabul on Wednesday.
“Today we come out on the streets of Kabul to raise our voices against the closure of the girls’ universities,” protesters from the Afghanistan Women’s Unity and Solidarity group said.
The small demonstrations were quickly shut down by Taliban officials.
The United Nations and several countries have condemned the order, which takes Afghanistan back to the Taliban’s first period of rule when girls could not receive formal education.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan said it was “a new low further violating the right to equal education and deepens the erasure of women from Afghan society.”
The US said such a move would “come with consequences for the Taliban”.
“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.
“No country can thrive when half of its population is held back.”
Female students have told the BBC about their anguish. “They destroyed the only bridge that could connect me with my future,” one Kabul University student said.
“How can I react? I believed that I could study and change my future or bring the light to my life but they destroyed it.”
Another student told the BBC she was a woman who had “lost everything”.
She had been studying Sharia Islamic law and argued the Taliban’s order contradicted “the rights that Islam and Allah have given us”.
“They have to go to other Islamic countries and see that their actions are not Islamic,” she told the BBC. (BBC)