Hundreds of young women have been stopped by armed guards from entering Afghan university campuses this morning, a day after the nation's Taliban rulers banned them from higher education in another assault on human rights.
Despite promising a softer rule when they seized power last year, the hardline Islamists have ratcheted up restrictions on all aspects of women's lives, ignoring international outrage.
A team of journalists saw groups of students gathered outside universities in the capital, Kabul, barred from entering by armed guards and shuttered gates.
Many, dressed in hijabs, were also seen standing in groups on roads leading to the campuses.
"We are doomed. We have lost everything," said one student, who asked not to be identified.
Male students also expressed shock at the latest edict.
"It really expresses their illiteracy and low knowledge of Islam and human rights," said one, also asking not to be named.
"If the situation continues like this the future will be worse. Everyone is scared."
Most private and government universities are closed for a few weeks over winter, although campuses generally remain open to students and staff.
The decision to bar women from universities came late last night in a terse announcement from Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the minister for higher education.
"You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice," it said.
Washington condemned the decision "in the strongest terms".
"The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan. This decision will come with consequences for the Taliban," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, was "deeply alarmed", his spokesman said.
"The secretary-general reiterates that the denial of education not only violates the equal rights of women and girls, but will have a devastating impact on the country's future," Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
The ban on higher education comes less than three months after thousands of girls and women were allowed to sit for university entrance exams across the country, with many aspiring to choose teaching and medicine as future careers.
Most teenage girls across the country have already been banned from secondary school, severely limiting university intake anyway.
After the Taliban takeover in August last year, universities were forced to implement new rules including gender-segregated classrooms and entrances, while women were only permitted to be taught by professors of the same sex, or old men.
The Taliban adhere to an austere version of Islam, with the movement's supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of clerics against modern education, especially for girls and women.
But they are at odds with many officials in Kabul - and among their rank and file - who had hoped girls would be allowed to continue learning following the takeover.
"The latest decision will increase these differences," a Taliban commander based in northwest Pakistan told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In a cruel U-turn, the Taliban in March blocked girls from returning to secondary schools on the morning they were supposed to reopen.
Several Taliban officials maintained the secondary education ban was only temporary, but have wheeled out a litany of excuses for the closure - from a lack of funds to the time needed to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines.
Since the ban, many teenage girls have been married off early - often to much older men of their father's choice.
Several families interviewed last month said that, coupled with economic pressure, the school ban meant that securing their daughters' future through marriage was better than them sitting idle at home.