Afghanistan’s rulers, the Taliban, have officially banned women from receiving higher education. The extremist outfit “instructed” public and private universities in a letter to suspend access to women students immediately until further notice. The Higher Education Minister Neda Mohammed Nadeem signed the letter.
The news has devastated the rest of the world, which can only send its condolences at this point. United Nations took note of the ordeal and called out the Afghan Taliban for breaking yet another promise. The militant group has defended its position claiming that such restrictions were due to “national interest” and “women’s honour”.
However, Afghan citizens might not share the same views as the Taliban.
Male Students and Teachers Protest Against the ban
Many women staged protests against the ban, but the Taliban quickly shut them down. Social media users shared videos of female students crying in the classrooms as their institutions informed them what they had to do to please the Taliban. The painful development has also prompted Afghan men to take a stand for the women of their country. Several rights activists and journalists have been sharing a video on social media, showing male students walking out on their exams in solidarity with Afghan women. Many university lecturers have also resigned to join the protests. Many have applauded the gesture as it is rare in a country like Afghanistan.
For many, this has come as a new hope for the future of Afghanistan. Male students refused to take their exams as long as their female counterparts were denied their rights. They joined women in protests outside universities holding banners saying “All of us or nobody”.
Women and the Taliban
The Taliban’s obsession with women is not limited to education. After vowing to reform their past practices, they made a stunning U-turn in March 2022. They were supposed to reopen the secondary school for girls but suddenly backed out on thier commitment. Furthermore, women started to get pushed out of several government jobs. In some places, they were forced to stay at home with slashed salaries. Afghan women are also not allowed to travel without at least one male relative (doesn’t include a friend or colleague). They also have to totally cover themselves up whenever they step outside of the house. Most recently, the Taliban prohibited women from going to parks, gyms, carnivals, and public baths.
Trouble in Paradise
The Taliban have been imposing a doctrine Afghan’s Muslim community considers un-Islamic. Students argued that the Taliban heavily contradicted Islam as they suppressed rights which Allah had given to Muslims. The militants claimed that the ban on girls’ secondary education was only temporary but also provided plenty of excuses, such as the lack of funds and time to modernize the curriculum according to Islam. These issues are due to a conflict within the ranks of the Taliban. Girls’ education is at the forefront of this internal disagreement. Some Taliban members claim to be the proponents who have been working to ensure all girls get thier right to education. Even though the girls did not attend school for over a year, they were still allowed to sit in the graduation exams 2 weeks ago in 31 of 34 provinces. However, with women now banned from universities, it is difficult for one to hope that things can improve under the Taliban leadership. It was one of the reasons why Afghan citizens fought alongside thier security forces against the Taliban last year, chanting Allah hu Akbar.