Source: Robert Besser

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban has reversed their decision to allow girls to return to high schools, stating they would remain closed until a new plan can be drafted, in line with Islamic law.

Amidst the Taliban administration seeking international recognition, the announcement took many by surprise and was condemned by humanitarian agencies, rights groups and diplomats.

Teachers and students from three high schools near the capital, Kabul, said girls had returned to their campuses this week, but were ordered to go home.

“We all became totally hopeless when the principal told us, she was also crying,” said a student, who asked to remain anonymous, as quoted by Reuters.

The international community has made the education of girls a key demand for any future recognition of the Taliban administration, which took over the country in August.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Taliban’s decision was “a profound disappointment and deeply damaging for Afghanistan.”

In a statement, he said, “The denial of education not only violates the equal rights of women and girls to education.I urge the Taliban de facto authorities to open schools for all students without any further delay.”

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After months of restricting education for high school-aged girls, last week the Ministry of Education announced the opening of schools for all students, including girls, for this week.

However, a Ministry of Education spokesman released a video congratulating all students on their returning to class, but the following day a notice said schools for girls would remain closed, according to government news agency Bakhtar News.

Suhail Shaheen, a senior Taliban member based in Doha, said the closing was due to a technical issue, and the Ministry of Education was working to standardize uniforms for students.

“We hope the uniform issue is resolved and finalized as soon as possible,” he said.

After being told to go home, 16 year-old student Khadija said, “We couldn’t believe we face such conditions, it was like a mourning day. Everyone was crying and hugging each other. I would like to be a doctor in the future, but for now I have no hope, I am like a dead body.”

Local media broadcast footage of girls holding a protest in Kabul.

A UN statement said many in the international community condemned the decision, with its special envoy for Afghanistan formally conveying the organization’s “grave concern and disappointment” to Taliban officials.

In a tweet, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tom West said, “For the sake of the country’s future and its relations with the international community, I would urge the Taliban to live up to their commitments to their people.”