Afghan universities reopen but women still banned

KABUL: The male students returned to class on Monday after Afghan universities reopened after a winter hiatus, but women remain banned by Taliban authorities.
The university ban is one of many restrictions imposed on women since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021 and has sparked global outrage, including in the Muslim world.
“It’s heartbreaking to see boys going to university when we have to stay at home,” said Rahela, 22, from the central province of Ghor.
“It’s gender discrimination against girls because Islam allows us to pursue higher education. No one should stop us from learning.”
The Taliban government imposed the ban after accusing female students of ignoring a strict dress code and the requirement to be accompanied by a male relative to and from campus.
Most universities had already introduced gender-segregated entrances and classrooms, while allowing women to be taught only by female professors or elderly men.
“It is painful to see that thousands of girls today are deprived of education,” says Mohammad Haseeb Habibzadah, a computer science student at University of Herattold AFP.
“We are trying to solve this problem by talking to teachers and other students so that there can be a way for boys and girls to study and progress together.”
Ejatullah Nejati, an engineering student at Kabul University, Afghanistan’s largest, said it was a basic right of women to study.
“Even if they attend classes on different days, it’s not a problem. They have a right to education and that right should be granted to them,” Nejati said as he entered the university campus.
Several Taliban officials say the ban on women’s education is temporary but, despite promises, they have failed to reopen secondary schools for girls, which have been closed for more than a year.
They released a litany of excuses for the shutdown, from lack of funds to the time needed to reshape the program along Islamic lines.
The reality, according to some Taliban officials, is that the ultra-conservative clerics who advise Afghanistan’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada are deeply skeptical modern education for women.
The Taliban authorities have effectively ousted women from public life since they regained power.
Women have been removed from many government jobs or are paid a fraction of their former wages to stay at home.
They are also prohibited from going to parks, fairs, gymnasiums and public baths, and must cover up in public.
Rights groups have condemned the restrictions, which the United Nations has called “gender apartheid”.
The international community has made women’s right to education a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition of the Taliban government.
So far, no country has officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.


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