Guess what? It is already the start of the new academic year for universities in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, but Monday was a black day for women and girl students across the country as they have been still barred from attending the classes. In fact, Richard Bennett, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Afghanistan, said that the Taliban’s deliberate and calculated policy is to deny women and girls rights and eradicate them from public life.
- Male students were seen going back to their classes on March 6 after Afghan universities reopened following a winter break as women students remained barred from entering the premises to pursue education.
- “According to a decision by the Supreme Council for Higher Education, studies of the male students at governmental higher education institutions in the colder provinces will officially start from [March 6] of the current year,” read a statement by the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education.
- However, the statement has not said about the resumption of universities for female students.
- In other news, however, the Afghanistan Medical Council said that after the approval of this council’s plan by the Taliban, the final exam for medical university will be taken by women.
- Technical consultants of the council said they have sent the plan to the Taliban. “After the approval of this plan we are ready to take exams of doctors that have graduated recently,” said Ahmad Shah, technical consultant of the council. According to officials, the medical council in Afghanistan held an exam and 30 percent of male doctors passed the exam over the next two days they will receive their licenses from this council.
Back story: The Taliban government imposed a ban on education for women at universities in Afghanistan by accusing female students of ignoring a strict dress code and a requirement to be accompanied by a male relative to and from campus.
- Up until last year, women were allowed to continue with their education in universities but the Taliban 2.0, soon reverted to its default settings. Most universities in the country were also compelled to introduce gender-segregated entrances and classrooms, as well as allowing women to be taught only by female professors or old men.
- In December last year, the Taliban authorities sent a letter to all public and private colleges announcing the indefinite ban on Afghan girls attending educational institutions.
- Not only colleges and universities are shut down for the female students, but the Taliban has also dropped shutters on secondary schools for female students.
- According to prominent human rights groups, the Taliban is the only country in the world where women and little girls are barred from entering educational as well as work institutions.
Take note of the critical voices too:
- Students at Balkh University’s School of Language and Literature have announced that they will not return to classes until female students are allowed to enter the university.
- An open letter from students was sent to the Chancellor on Monday, stating that as long as girls do not have the right to study, they will abide by their previous commitment and will not return to the classes.
- A number of female students had also gathered in front of Kabul University on Monday in a symbolic move. Taliban members dispersed the girls gathered in front of Kabul University and asked them to leave around the university.
- The female students said that the university was closed to them and that they had come to study outside the university.
- In separate action, a group of female students called on boys and professors to boycott the university. In their letter, girl students wrote, “Millions of girls across Afghanistan will look at you standing with tearful eyes and applaud your courage and companionship. We call on you to boycott universities.”
- Female students have also said that depriving girls of education is contrary to the common aspirations of men and women for Afghanistan’s self-sufficiency and must be resisted.
Why it matters? Whenever the international community confronts the Taliban about its stance, the authorities remark that the ban is temporary.
- They have also reeled out a number of excuses for the closure, from a lack of funds to the time needed to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines, but both local and international rights groups have condemned the restrictions, with the United Nations calling it a “gender-based apartheid”.
- The reality, according to some Taliban officials, is that the ultra-conservative clerics advising the country’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada are deeply skeptical of modern education for women.
- These restrictions are called “gender-based apartheid” by the United Nations.
Meanwhile, in another related development, Afghanistan’s Women’s justice movement has called on the international community to stop engaging with the Taliban and adopt a more practical work.
- It called on all countries around the world and countries that respect women and their rights and those who have signed international treaties not to violate women’s rights, to not recognize the group until the Taliban change its extremist and misogynistic methods and not engage in any political interaction with it.
- “We call on the European Union and the United States and the West as a whole to stop any overt and covert cooperation with the group and impose additional sanctions against the group,” the letter said.
- Apart from this, a number of civil and women’s rights activists in Germany have launched a protest march with the slogan “No to gender apartheid in Afghanistan” to protest the “oppression” against women in Afghanistan.
- The march began from Berlin, Germany, and is scheduled to end in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, before the EU Parliament.
Zoom out: There have been global reactions to Taliban’s continued ban on women’s education and violation of their human rights.
- Amina Mohammad, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, said that girls’ deprivation of education in Afghanistan must end immediately.
- She said that for more than 500 days, the Taliban in Afghanistan have denied girls the right to education above sixth grade. Mohammad said that the international community will continue to unite to address the educational needs and rights of Afghan girls. “It is essential to show solidarity with these girls and strengthen their voices. They are not alone,” she said.
- While, the European Union special envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, said that the issue of girls’ schools was discussed with authorities, but he did not hear any commitment about opening classes for the new school year.
- Niklasson who is on a visit to Afghanistan, has met with several senior officials of the Taliban. In a meeting with the political deputy of the prime minister, Abdul Hakim Haqqani, Niklasson pledged to provide educational facilities for the citizens.
- “Secondary schools remain closed for girls in most parts of the country since 18 months, and in December, the de facto authorities announced that also universities would be closed for women. I raised these issues in several of my meetings with acting ministers and while many confirmed the rights of girls and women to study, I did not hear any firm commitment that schools were going to open at the beginning of the school year after Nawroz, despite very clear questions from our side,” Niklasson told a press conference in Kabul on Sunday.
- The deputy spokesman of the Taliban, Bilal Karimi, said that the educational structure would be formed based on Islamic laws.
- However, Niklasson said, “Opening schools and universities to boys and girls is necessary for the future of the next generation and to have a better Afghanistan.”
- Even, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz strongly condemned violence against women in Afghanistan and said that the repressive policies of the Taliban in Afghanistan are unforgiveable.
- Richard Bennett on Monday, tweeted that no country can work with half of its large population, who are practically locked up at home. He called the role of women employees in aid vital and called on the Taliban to immediately lift the ban on women working for NGOs.
- The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) said that the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s participation in life and society are slowing the development process. According to the office, women-led families are experiencing more economic shocks and lower income levels than families with male guardians.