IEA stops 100 girls from flying to Dubai on university scholarships

KABUL (Agencies): The head of a Dubai-based conglomerate said Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate authorities had stopped around 100 women from traveling to the United Arab Emirates where he was to sponsor their university education.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, founding chairman of Al Habtoor Group, said in a video posted on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, that he had planned to sponsor the female students to attend university and a plane he had paid for had been due to fly them to the UAE.

“Taliban (IEA) government refused to allow the girls who were coming to study here – a hundred girls sponsored by me – they refused them to board the plane and already we have paid for the aircraft, we have organised everything for them here, accommodation, education, transportation, security,” he said in the video.

Spokespeople for the IEA administration and Afghan foreign affairs ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Al Habtoor included audio of one of the Afghan students who said that she had been accompanied by a male chaperone but airport authorities in Kabul had stopped her and others from boarding the flight.

The IEA administration has closed universities and high schools to female students in Afghanistan. They allow Afghans to leave the country but usually require Afghan women travelling long distances and abroad to be accompanied by a male chaperone, such as their husband, father or brother. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has condemned the IEA’s decision for prohibiting female students from traveling to Dubai to start their university courses.

“This preposterous decision is a flagrant violation of the right to education and freedom of movement and demonstrates the continued gender persecution against women and girls in Afghanistan. The Taliban de-facto authorities (IEA) must immediately reverse their decision and allow these female students to travel and study,” the organization posted on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.