In the Afghan capital Kabul, dozens of women have demonstrated against the recently imposed university ban. As the TV channel Tolonews reported, female students marched through a quarter in western Kabul shouting protest slogans. According to reports from eyewitnesses, individual protesters and journalists were also briefly arrested.
On Tuesday, the Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan banned women from all universities with immediate effect. Since taking power in August 2021, the militant group has massively restricted women's rights. Girls and women are largely excluded from public life. Secondary schools from the seventh grade upwards have also been closed to girls since the change of government. The country recently banned women from visiting public parks and gyms.
On Wednesday, Taliban security forces reportedly barred women from entering colleges. The well-connected journalist Bilal Sarwari published videos of stunned female students. After taking power, the Taliban initially allowed women to attend university under strict conditions. Lectures continued with gender segregation. Female students had to adhere to strict Islamic dress codes.
Taliban minister defends ban
Afghanistan's acting Taliban Minister of Higher Education has defended the university ban for women. Sheikh Neda Mohammed Nadim justified the drastic step with contradictions to the Taliban's legal understanding of Islam, as reported by the Tolonews news channel. These included, for example, that female students did not observe the Islamic dress code or came from the provinces to the universities without a male companion.
In addition, women and men continued to be taught together and some subjects are contrary to Afghan honor and Islamic principles, the minister said. The interview was broadcast on state broadcaster RTA.
Expert fears a complete ban on education for women
After the university ban for women in Afghanistan, a renowned expert believes that a complete education ban for women in the country is possible. "After the experience with the university ban, one can no longer rule out the possibility that the Taliban will close all girls' schools," said Thomas Ruttig from the German Press Agency's Afghanistan Analysts Network think tank on Thursday. "That would be a one-time event, not just for Afghanistan," the expert continued. Schooling for girls had already been restricted by the Islamists a few months after they took power. Currently, they can only attend school up to the 6th grade.
This "systematic misogyny" seems to have fallen out of existence, even compared to other repressive Islamic states, Ruttig continued.
Most schools in Afghanistan are currently on winter break. Observers had already expressed concerns that girls' schools could simply remain closed after the days off.
"Together with the extensive exclusion from the world of work, this has enormous economic consequences for the extremely poor country," explained the expert. "It plunges the female half of the population and many families into a psychological crisis." At the same time, the university ban for women also contradicts the logic of the Taliban, who, according to their interpretation of Sharia, Islamic law, insist on gender segregation in education and health care, for example. "Even then you need doctors and teachers," says Ruttig.