The Taliban's justification for banning women from Afghanistan's universities is “nonsense”, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who, with his daughter Malala, is an outspoken advocate of equal access to education, has told The National.
The ban announced on Tuesday marked another setback for women's rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August last year, and drew condemnation from across the world.
Acting higher education minister Nida Mohammad Nadim criticised women students' attire, saying they were “wearing clothes mostly to go to a wedding” to classes. Gender mixing on campus was another reason for the ban.
In addition, learning subjects such as engineering and agriculture was at odds with the “dignity and pride” of Afghan women, Mr Nadim said.
Mr Yousafzai dismissed the official's claims.
“It's rubbish, nonsense, stupid, silly,” he said. “What could be said about it?”
Mr Yousafzai, who ran a school for girls in Pakistan, has long been an advocate of equal opportunity in education.
He was forced to flee the country after his daughter was shot and seriously injured in 2012 by the Pakistani Taliban, which shares the same hardline ideology as the Afghan Taliban, for speaking up for girls' education.
On Wednesday, the Afghan Taliban also banned girls from attending elementary school, thereby ending all access to education for girls and women.
Thousands of young women had sat their university entrance exams a few months ago in anticipation beginning classes after the winter break.
“It's so tragic,” said Mr Yousafzai. “The Ministry of Education stops education and the Ministry of Higher Education stops higher education. It's such a nonsense thing.”
In a tweet, he called Mr Nadim a “minister of higher ignorance and gender apartheid”.
Mr Yousafzai has previously challenged the group to present evidence from the Quran or the Prophet Mohammed's teachings that prohibit women from receiving an education.
“This is their brand of Islam and their ideology. I am a non-believer of the Islamic system that the Taliban believe in, he said.
“The Taliban's Islam is anti-women, anti-freedom, anti-nature, anti-human dignity and civilisation,”
He called for the people of Afghanistan to defy Taliban rule.
Afghanistan “is literally a hell on earth for women and the entire population,” Mr Yousafzai said.
“This war on women's education is absolutely unacceptable and should be condemned and the people should rise against it.”
A number of people have been arrested after Afghans took to the streets to protest against the Taliban ban.
“I don’t wish to continue working somewhere where there is an organised discrimination against innocent and talented girls of this country by those in power,” Obaidullah Wardak, a Kabul University professor who resigned in protest on Wednesday, wrote on Twitter.
Mr Yousafzai shared a video of students from the University of Peshawar, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, north-west Pakistan, protesting in solidarity with Afghan female students.
Condemnation of the Taliban move came from around the world, including the UAE, the US and Turkey and the UN.
Lana Nusseibeh, UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for Political Affairs and UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, said the restrictions on women and girls were “aimed at their erasure from public life”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the ban was “neither Islamic nor humane”.