In Afghanistan, men are back in college, not women

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In Afghanistan, the men are back at university, not the women

Mohsen Karimi Agence France-Presse Men arrive at university on Monday in Herat.

Estelle Emonet – Agence France-Presse and Qubad Wali – Agence France-Presse in Kabul


  • Asia

The men resumed classes on Monday at Afghan universities reopened after the long winter break, unlike the women who, to their dismay, are still not allowed to study by the Taliban regime.

The ban access to university is one of countless restrictions on women's rights adopted by the Taliban since their return to power in August 2021. It has drawn a wave of condemnation around the world, including in Muslim countries. /p>

“I am heartbroken to see the boys go to university while we stay at home,” Rahela, 22, from the central province of Ghor told AFP.

“If Afghan girls and women are educated, they will never accept a government that exploits Islam and the Koran. They will defend their rights… that's what the government fears,” said Waheeda Durrani, who had to stop studying journalism in Herat.

At the end of December 2022, the Minister of Higher Education announced that universities were now closed to women on the grounds that female students did not respect the obligation to veil their body and face entirely, and that they were not always accompanied as required by a “mahram”, a male companion from their family.

Universities had however already adopted new rules after the return to power of the Taliban, in particular intended to separate girls and boys during school hours.

Women were thus only allowed to be taught by teachers of the same sex or by elderly men.

“It hurts to see that thousands of girls are deprived of education from our days,” lamented Mohammad Haseeb Habibzadah, a computer science student in Herat. believes that access to education is a fundamental right of women.

“Even if they attend classes on other days (than the boys), it’s not a problem. They have the right to be educated and they should be given that right,” he said as he walked back to his campus.

At the private Rana University in the capital, posters explaining how women should dress were still hung in the hallways, while a few male students had taken their places in half-empty rooms, journalists from the university said. 'AFP.

“My sister, unfortunately, cannot come to university. She tries to study at home,” one of them, Ibratullah Rahimi, lamented.

Several Taliban officials say the ban on women studying is only temporary, but they did not give a timetable for when it will be lifted. Secondary schools have also been closed to girls for a year and a half.

The authorities offered many excuses for the closure, arguing that there were not enough teachers or money, or that schools would reopen once an Islamic curriculum was developed.

In fact, some Taliban officials acknowledge that the movement's supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and the ultra-conservative clerics who advise him remain deeply skeptical of modern education.

The ban on studying had come as a shock to the Afghan women, who less than three months earlier had sat the university entrance exams.

Despite their promises to be more flexible, the Taliban returned to the rigorous interpretation of Islam which had marked their first passage to power (1996-2001) and multiplied the repressive measures against women.

These were excluded from many public jobs, or are paid a pittance to stay at home. They are not allowed to travel without being accompanied by a male relative and must cover themselves fully when leaving their homes.

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

The international community has linked recognition of the Taliban regime and much-needed humanitarian and financial aid to Afghanistan with respect by the Taliban human rights, especially that of women to be educated and to work.