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A group of women took to the streets of the city of Herat in Afghanistan on Saturday, to protest against a Taliban order this week suspending all female students from attending university in the country.

Video footage circulating on social media shows Taliban officials using a water cannon to disperse protesters.

Girls could be seen running from the water cannon and chanting “cowards” at officials.

The Taliban’s announcement this week that it was suspending university education for female students was the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on Afghan women’s freedoms.

The move came as the group promised when it returned to power last year that it would respect women’s rights.

This follows a similar decision in March this year which banned girls from returning to secondary schools.

Male students at universities across the country have reacted to the latest education ban by boycotting their exams in protest.

“Education is the duty of men and women,” read a statement from Kandahar’s Mirwais Nika Institute of Higher Learning released on Saturday. “It is the fundamental right and the secret of the country’s development and autonomy.”

The students had initially asked Taliban officials to reverse the ban, but “no positive response” was given, the school said – adding that “dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction” had fueled the boycott.

A university official told CNN that the students’ decision to boycott their entrance exams would result in classes being suspended.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021 in a lightning takeover after US troops withdrew, having ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 – when the US-led invasion forced the group to leave power.

Under its previous period of rule, the group was known for its treatment of women as second-class citizens.

After taking power last year, the group made numerous promises that it would protect the rights of women and girls.

But activists say the Taliban have reneged on their word and are once again undermining women’s freedoms.

On Saturday, the group ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country to prevent female workers from going to work. Failure to comply would result in the revocation of NGO licenses, according to an official notice from the ministry.

A spokesperson told CNN the move was due to failure to follow Islamic dress rules and other laws and regulations in the Islamic emirate.

Afghan women can no longer work in most sectors.

Their movement rights have also been severely restricted and access to public spaces significantly restricted. Women are also required to cover themselves fully in public, including their face.

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Taliban use water cannons against women protesting education order in Afghanistan

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