The Afghan government on Tuesday barred women from attending private and public universities, officials said, in the latest severe blow to women’s rights under a Taliban administration that has all but reinstituted the hard-line rule the group maintained during its first stretch in power during the 1990s.
The move is the most recent sign that the Taliban’s leadership has cast aside any intent to moderate even as it seeks international recognition. The new government in recent weeks has reinstituted Shariah law, carried out public floggings across the country and conducted one public execution.
Those moves are likely to threaten the influx of badly needed international aid that has kept Afghanistan from the brink of famine as it grapples with a devastating economic collapse.
The news on Tuesday, delivered in a letter from the education ministry, was crushing to Afghan women who had been raised in an era of relative opportunity, but who have seen those rights slowly erased since the Western-backed government collapsed last year.
In March, the new government reneged on promises to allow girls to attend public high schools until officials created a plan for them to reopen in accordance with Islamic law. Many high-school-aged girls had held out hope that their schools would reopen because universities had continued to allow women to attend classes. But the decision on Tuesday stamped out any vestige of that hope.
Farhanaz, a 19-year-old who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear of retribution, finished the second semester of her university economics coursework 15 days ago, but now fears that will be the end of her education.
“I am really shocked,” she said. “The least hope I had for life was destroyed.”
Western officials condemned the government’s action on Tuesday.
“This unacceptable stance will have significant consequences for the Taliban,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said at a news conference in Washington. Mr. Price would not give details on what penalties the United States or its allies might impose.