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Taliban explain why Afghan women were banned from universities

Taliban explain why Afghan women were banned from universities

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Afghan universities were declared off-limits to female students. (file)

Kabul:

Afghan universities have been declared off-limits to women because female students did not follow instructions, including an appropriate dress code, the Taliban’s minister of higher education said on Thursday.

The ban, announced earlier this week, is the latest restriction on women’s rights in Afghanistan ordered by the Taliban since they returned to power in August last year.

It has sparked global outrage, including from Muslim nations who see it as anti-Islam, and the Group of Seven industrialized democracies, which said the ban could amount to a “crime against humanity”.

But Neda Mohammad Nadeem, minister of higher education in the Taliban government, insisted on Thursday that the female students had ignored Islamic instructions – including what to wear or whether to be accompanied by a male relative when travelling.

“Unfortunately, after 14 months, the instructions of the Ministry of Higher Education of the Islamic Emirate regarding women’s education were not implemented,” Nadeem said in an interview with state television.

“They dressed as if they were going to a wedding. These girls who came to the universities from home also did not follow the hijab instructions.”

Nadeem also said that some science subjects are not suitable for women. “Engineering, agriculture and some other courses do not match the dignity and honor of female students and the Afghan culture,” he said.

Authorities had also decided to close down those madrassas that taught only female students but were housed in mosques, Nadeem said.

The ban on university education came less than three months after thousands of female students were allowed to sit for entrance exams, many of whom aspired to teaching and medicine as future careers.

Girls’ secondary schools have been closed in most of the country for more than a year – also temporarily, according to the Taliban, although they have offered multiple excuses for not reopening.

Women were slowly pushed out of public life after the return of the Taliban, pushed out of many government jobs or paid a fraction of their previous salary to stay at home.

They are also prohibited from traveling without a male relative and must cover up in public, as well as visit parks, fairs, gyms and public bathrooms.

The Taliban’s treatment of women, including their latest move to restrict their access to universities, has drawn a fierce backlash from the G7, whose ministers have called for the ban to be lifted.

“Gender-based persecution may amount to a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute to which Afghanistan is a party,” the ministers said in a statement, citing the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban.”

The international community has made the right to education for all women an obstacle in negotiations for aid and recognition of the Taliban regime.

Saudi Arabia also expressed “surprise and regret” at the ban, calling on the Taliban to lift it.

But Nadeem hit back at the international community, saying it “should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs”.

– Rare protests –

Earlier on Thursday, a group of Afghan women staged a street protest in Kabul against the ban.

“They kicked women out of the universities. Oh dear people, support, support. Rights for all or none!” protesters chanted as they gathered in a Kabul neighborhood, footage obtained by AFP showed.

A protester at the rally told AFP that “some of the girls” were arrested by female police officers. Two were later released and two remained in custody, she added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Women-led protests have become increasingly rare in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the country in August 2021, especially after the detention of key activists earlier this year.

Participants risk arrest, violence and stigma from their families to participate.

Despite promising softer rules when they took power, the Taliban have tightened restrictions on all aspects of women’s lives.

After their takeover, universities were forced to introduce new rules, including gender-segregated classrooms and entrances, while women were only allowed to teach by same-sex professors or senior men.

The Taliban adhere to a strict version of Islam, with the movement’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of clerics opposed to modern education, especially for girls and women, some Taliban officials say.

In the 1920s between the two Taliban reigns, girls were allowed to go to school and women could find work in all sectors, although the country remained socially conservative.

Authorities have also returned to publicly flogging men and women in recent weeks as they enforce an extreme interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated channel.)

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