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Scholars, global leaders denounce Taliban decision to bar women indefinitely from Afghan universities

‘If my sister and my mother can’t study, then I do not accept this education’

Professors as well as prominent global authorities have condemned the Taliban’s recent decision to bar women indefinitely from colleges and universities in Afghanistan.

A professor at Kabul University in Afghanistan, Ismail Mashal, appeared to tear up his university diplomas in protest on local Afghan station Tolo TV, The Guardian reported December 28.

“If my sister and my mother can’t study, then I do not accept this education,” he said.

Asma Afsaruddin, a professor of Middle Eastern languages and cultures at Indiana University Bloomington, told The College Fix in an email that the “Taliban’s inexplicable aversion to women attending schools and universities should be attributed to their fundamental ignorance of Islamic history and to their tribal ways of life in which women are clearly marginalized and expected to be subservient to men.”

A spokesman for the Taliban ministry of higher education announced the decision banning women in a letter tweeted December 20.

“Based on [a] cabinet decision…education for women is suspended until further notice,” Hafiz Hashimi wrote in the announcement, translated by CBS News. “The decision should be implemented immediately.”

Afsaruddin told The College Fix in her December 22 email that the decision stands in contrast to other Muslim-majority countries.

“Elsewhere in the modern Muslim-majority world, large percentages of women attend colleges and universities and they are increasingly entering the white-collar professions, such as higher education, medicine, engineering, law, etc.,” said Afsaruddin (pictured).

The Taliban began a slow clampdown on women’s rights since taking power in 2021

Since taking power more than 15 months ago, the Taliban immediately banned girls from sixth through twelfth grade, CBS reported. However, women were allowed to attend gender-segregated classes at universities.

Ever since the Taliban appointed a new hardline leader, Mawlawi Neda Muhamad, to head the ministry of higher education, rumors of impending university closures had been circulating on social media, according to CBS.

The Taliban’s decree has sparked backlash both within Afghanistan and internationally.

Some women protested the decision in the capital city of Kabul on December 21, but Taliban officials quickly suppressed them, according to the BBC.

“They destroyed the only bridge that could connect me with my future… I believed that I could study and change my future or bring the light to my life but they destroyed it,” an anonymous former student at Kabul University told the British news outlet.

UN and American officials denounced the decision.

“Banning women from attending university is another appalling and cruel blow to the rights of Afghan women & girls, and a deeply regrettable setback,” UN Human Rights tweeted on December 21.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the Taliban’s indefensible decision to ban women from universities [and] keep secondary schools closed to girls,” according to a December 20 statement by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all in Afghanistan. This decision will come with consequences for the Taliban.”

MORE: Taliban arrests prominent dissident professor in Afghanistan

IMAGE: Anna Krivitskaya/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Sylvie Patterson -- Trinity University