More than 1 million girls are barred from attending classes amid an education ban under the Taliban regime as the school year began Tuesday in Afghanistan, according to the UN children’s agency.

Report informs via Anadolu Agency that the Taliban regime has moved to close universities to female students across the country and has barred girls from attending secondary school since it returned to power in 2021, sparking global condemnation.

“It’s deeply disappointing to learn that, once again, the de facto authorities in Afghanistan have prevented girls from attending secondary school. This unjustified and shortsighted decision has crushed the hopes and dreams of more than one million girls, and marks another grim milestone in the steady erosion of girls’ and women’s rights nationwide,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Girls across Afghanistan have been denied their right to learn for over three years – first, due to COVID-19, and then because of the ban on attending secondary school. The cumulative impact of these absences is taking a terrible toll on girls’ mental health, overall wellbeing and on their futures.”

She warned that preventing girls from learning will have far-reaching consequences for the country’s economy and health system.

The UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, urged the Taliban to reverse all discriminatory policies against women and girls.

The Taliban’s return to power, followed by the disruption of international financial assistance has left the worn-torn country in economic, humanitarian and human rights crises.

Women and girls have been deprived of their rights, including the right to education, and they have disappeared from public life.

Thousands of women have since lost their jobs or were forced to resign from government institutions and the private sector.