In a not-so-surprising yet outrageous move, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan declared a closure of all public and private universities to women. This was followed by a Christmas Day order banning women from working for any and all local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country as it grapples with a humanitarian disaster. These latest bans are another devastating blow to millions of girls and women in the country as they face a systemic gender apartheid. I and my colleagues at Akademos Society who have had the privilege to work with hundreds of female students in Afghanistan, were horrified but not shocked by these latest announcements. We had many names, faces and aspirations to think about. We thought of the young sisters from the impoverished West Kabul who wanted to finish their studies and become teachers. We thought of a young woman from a remote province who was studying to be a civil engineer. We recalled the faces and voices of the many young girls whose hopes and dreams, any and all that they had left, have been snatched away from them by a despotic regime and a seeming apathetic world. Almost immediately upon their return to power in 2021, the Taliban banned girls from secondary schools. There was still some glimmer of hope as many girls continued to attend primary schools and universities, albeit under severe restrictions imposed by the Taliban. Only three months ago thousands of girls who had been attending secondary schools under the previous government, sat university entrance examinations known as the kankor. They hoped to continue their education, and pursue a better future for themselves and their families. All of that now appears to have been a futile exercise. Prior to the fall of the Afghanistan Republic and the return of the Taliban, girls had made significant gains in education. In spite of the insurmountable challenges, adult literacy for those above 15 years of age had increased from 32 per cent in 2011 to 43 per cent in 2018, while the female literacy rate increased from 17 per cent to 30 per cent. In 2018 girls constituted 39 per cent of students at a primary level, 35.7 per cent at a secondary level and 34 per cent at a higher secondary level. Since the return of Taliban, the share of girls attending secondary schools has fallen to effectively zero. With these new bans, the share of students at secondary and tertiary levels will also fall to zero. Girls can now only attend school up to year 6. Beyond that, the Taliban regime oblige them to stay at home and aspire to become nothing else but nameless, voiceless and faceless housewives. These latest Taliban bans are a continuation of a gross violation of the fundamental right to education for girls under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The impact of these bans go well beyond mere schooling. A very direct impact is a greater risk of abuse, more systemic discrimination, and more early and forced marriages. Women and girls are now restricted to the confines of their homes. They are now even more exposed to the menace of child marriage. It also means that the country will not produce any female teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals. Many women will be denied any opportunity to earn a dignified living and support their families. There will be fewer educators, fewer carers, a rise in child malnutrition, and a drop in life expectancy, especially for women. READ MORE: The multiplier effect is a downward spiral for women and girls across all socioeconomic indicators. Our fear that is that this is another step towards a gradual return to the social and political situation that devastated Afghanistan in the 1990s, and resulted in the country turning into a hotbed of regional and international terrorism. The exclusion of women from all facades of public and social life can only result in the perpetuation of the extremist ideologies that have given birth to the Taliban, ISIS and numerous other organisations. The degradation and denial of human rights, especially for women and girls, has been a steady and systemic process in the Taliban-run Afghanistan. Women and girls in Afghanistan have no hope for a reformation from within the country. They now look to the international community to use any and all leverage they have, to help them gain their fundamental human rights, including the right to education.