The latest: Its like the Taliban is insisting on proving to the world that they will not change and implement hardline, regressive policies, when the Taliban’s minister of higher education came on a state television broadcast and defended the group’s ban on university education for women.
- The group’s decree, which has triggered global outrage, has drawn protests from within the country as well with students coming to the streets and professors resigning, however, the Taliban has been violently suppressing them.
- The Taliban’s minister of higher education Nida Mohammad Nadim said that the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam.
- He also said the ban was in place until further notice.
- Speaking of the global condemnation, Nadim stressed that foreigners should stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
- Other reasons he gave for the university ban were women’s failure to observe a dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses.
- A former provincial governor, police chief and military commander, Nadim was appointed minister in October by the supreme Taliban leader and previously pledged to stamp out secular schooling. Nadim opposes female education, saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values.
- “We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn’t and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony,” he said. “Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn’t match Afghan culture. Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor.”
- He added that work was underway to fix these issues and universities would reopen for women once they were resolved. The Taliban made similar promises about high school access for girls, saying classes would resume for them once “technical issues” around uniforms and transport were sorted out, but girls remain shut out of classrooms.
Back story: The decision has been met with widespread protests across the country. On Thursday, however, Taliban arrested five female protesters and three journalists who had come to cover the protests.
- In Kabul, the Taliban has begun cracking down on dissent in Dehbori area of Kabul city. Several male and female students also protested at Nangarhar University.
- A number of female students in Badakhshan have also warned that if the Taliban do not reconsider their decision, they will protest and go on hunger strike.
Why it matters? Despite initially promising a more moderate rule respecting rights for women’s and minorities, the Taliban have widely implemented their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
- They have banned girls from middle school and high school, restricted women from most employment and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms.
- The decision is certain to hurt efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis. The international community has urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women their right to public space.
Zoom out: This comes even as after Muslim-majority nations, India too on Thursday expressed concern about the Taliban’s ban. “We have noted with concern the reports in this regard. India has consistently supported the cause of women’s education in Afghanistan,” spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi said.
- He added, “We have emphasised the importance of the establishment of an inclusive and representative government that respects the rights of all Afghans and ensures the equal rights of women and girls to participate in all aspects of Afghan society, including access to higher education.”
- Also, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman expressed Iran’s disapproval of the Taliban’s decision. Nasser Kanaani said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a neighbour of Afghanistan that favours peace, stability and development in that country, is sorry to hear about the obstacles being put in the way of university education for girls and women in Afghanistan.” He said Iran hopes that the people in charge in Afghanistan would immediately remove the obstacles and allow for the resumption of the Afghan girls’ access to education at schools and universities, so that the female students would enjoy the right to education and play a more active role in the development and prosperity of Afghanistan.