Afghanistan: Armed guards prevent young women from entering universities


Hundreds of young women were prevented by armed guards from entering university campuses in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the day after the authorities decided to ban higher education for young women, who were already deprived of secondary education.

On Wednesday, AFP journalists could see groups of students, stunned by the news, gather outside the closed gates of universities in Kabul, blocked by armed guards to prevent them from entering.

“We are doomed, we have lost everything,” said a student refusing to be identified for fear of reprisals from the Taliban who patrolled around schools.

Most of the universities closed until March due to the winter holidays had for some remained open until now due to final exams.

Since the accession to power of Islamist fundamentalists in August 2021, after 20 years of war with the Americans and NATO forces, women have seen their freedom restricted over the months despite international condemnations.

Late Tuesday evening, the regime, with its ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam, announced that public and private Afghan universities were now prohibited for girls for an indefinite period.

No explanation has yet been provided to justify this decision.

On a sidewalk in Kabul, a young man studying law testified to his incomprehension of a decision that illustrates the "illiteracy", "ignorance in Islam" and "the lack of respect for human rights" of the Taliban, according to him.

They want to "eliminate women (...) to stay at home and give birth to children." That's all. They don't want anything more for them,” said Setara Farahmand, a 21-year-old student of German literature in the capital.

On social networks under the hashtag #LetHerLearn (Let them learn), the indignation multiplied. Some users have shared images of students from Nangarhar University (eastern Afghanistan) medical school interrupting their exams in solidarity with their fellow young girls.

A math teacher in Kabul also announced his resignation on Facebook, saying he did not want to continue teaching "where young girls are not allowed to study".

Qatar condemnation

The Muslim country Qatar, which played a key role in facilitating talks between the West and the Taliban, said everyone has the right to education and urged Afghan leaders to reconsider their decision "in accordance with teachings of the Islamic religion.

Similarly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the ban "seriously undermines the credibility of the government".

The new ban comes less than three months after thousands of girls and women took university entrance exams across the country.

Many of them aspired to choose between careers in engineering or medicine, although deprived of access to secondary schools.

“When I saw the news on the internet (...) I was shocked and surprised. I burst into tears”, testified Wednesday Amini who is taking courses to become a nurse in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

The 23-year-old student who heard the news with her three other sisters explains that she felt like a "bird in a cage".

Paris, through the voice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also denounced a decision which "comes to be added to the list of innumerable violations and restrictions on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Afghan women pronounced by the Taliban" and considered the measure "deeply shocking". .

Despite their promises to be more flexible, the Taliban have returned to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that marked their first spell in power (1996-2001).

For 16 months, liberticidal measures have multiplied, in particular against women who have been gradually excluded from public life and excluded from colleges and high schools.

In an unexpected about-face, on March 23, the Taliban had closed secondary schools just hours after their long-announced reopening.

Various members of power had said that there were not enough teachers or money but also that schools would reopen once an Islamic curriculum was developed.

Proliferation of bans

As well as being deprived of education, women are also banned from most government jobs or paid a pittance to stay at home.

They are also prohibited from traveling without being accompanied by a male relative and must wear a burqa or hijab when leaving their homes.

In November, the Taliban also banned them from entering parks, gardens, sports halls and public baths.

Protests by women have become risky. Many protesters have been arrested and journalists are increasingly prevented from covering these rallies.

The international community has linked recognition of the Taliban regime and much-needed humanitarian and financial aid to Afghanistan with the Taliban's respect for human rights, especially women's rights to education and work.

On Wednesday Washington condemned "in the strongest terms" the ban, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply alarmed", according to his spokesman.

Berlin indicated for its part that it was going to seize the G7 of this question and underlined that with this measure the Taliban “have decided to destroy the future of their own country”.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

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