The Taliban have allegedly barred a group of young girls from leaving Afghanistan for the United Arab Emirates, where they were expected to complete university studies.
Khalaf Al Habtoor, a prominent Emirati businessman, said in a video message on X, formerly Twitter, that he had sponsored about 100 Afghan female students to enable them to pursue their education in collaboration with the University of Dubai.
But he said that his office received "the uncomfortable news" Wednesday morning that Taliban authorities prevented the girls from boarding a plane waiting for them at Kabul airport.
"This has left me lost for words to describe the disappointment I currently feel," said Al Habtoor, the founder and chairman of Al Habtoor Group, described as one the UAE's most respected and successful businesses.
He said that he was "sad today" because the students could not reach Dubai, where his organization had already arranged university admissions, accommodation, transport, and security for the group after months of efforts.
"The authorities in Afghanistan, without justification, prevented their departure, unjustly curtailing their freedom. This stands as a profound tragedy, a blow against the principles of humanity, education, equality, and justice," Al Habtoor added.
"I request all involved parties to quickly step in and help rescue and assist these struggling students," the Emirati businessman said.
Taliban authorities did not immediately comment on the allegations.
The fundamentalist Taliban have banned girls from attending schools beyond the sixth grade since reclaiming control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Late last year, the hardline de facto authorities stopped female students from attending university classes nationwide.
The move prompted Al Habtoor in December to offer scholarships to 100 female Afghan university students to help them continue their education in Dubai.
He also posted a voice message from a student who was prohibited from traveling to Dubai but did not disclose her identity.
"We are right now in the airport, but unfortunately, the government [won’t] allow us to fly to Dubai. Even they don't allow those traveling with a mahram [male guardian]," the student said.
"They don't allow us when they see the student visa and ticket. I don't know what to do. Please help us. We are so concerned about this matter," the student added.
The Taliban have banned Afghan women from undertaking foreign travel unless accompanied by a male family member. They have also barred many women, including female Afghan staff of international aid groups, from workplaces.
The United Nations has criticized the restrictions on women and repeatedly urged the de facto authorities to reverse the policies and address other Afghan human rights concerns.
No foreign country has formally recognized the Taliban government. The U.N. has ruled out international recognition for the de facto rulers in Kabul unless curbs on Afghan women are reversed.