‘Our sisters deserve better’: Afghan men quit university jobs after ban on female students | Afghanistan

BAktaş Amini loved his work as an associate professor at the Faculty of Physics of Kabul University. In addition to his passion for teaching, he took pride in helping his students pursue careers in physics, collaborating with the International Center for Theoretical Physics and Cern, among others.

But her efforts to pursue a science education in Afghanistan seemed futile when the Taliban announced women’s empowerment. University education was banned. “Night [the] The Taliban closed the doors of universities to Afghan women, I received many messages and calls from my students. I can’t find words to describe their situation. I am an academic and this was the only way I could protest [leaving] a system that discriminates against women,” he says. He resigned from his “dream job” on December 21.

Prof. among his uncles at least 60 Afghan scholars Those who resigned in protest of the Taliban’s decree prohibits women from getting higher education. “The Taliban has taken women’s education as a hostage for their political interests. This is treason to the nation,” says Abdul Ragib Ekleel, a teacher of urban planning at Kabul Polytechnic University who has also resigned from his post.

“In the last year and a half Taliban they put forward many unreasonable demands on female students, such as adjusting their clothes, having a hijab, holding classes separately, and accompanying them. intimate [legal male guardian] and students owe them all. Each teacher gave the same lectures twice a week, once for men and then for women. Despite this, the Taliban still banned women,” says Ekleel.

“These bans are against Islamic values ​​and national interests. It affects everyone, not just women. I couldn’t be part of such a system,” he adds.

Another teacher at Kabul University he tore up his degrees and educational documents on national television. “If my sister and mother cannot study today, what is the use of these studies? [degrees] Look at me, I’m tearing up my papers. I was a teacher and taught [students]but this country is no longer a place of education,” said Ismayil Mashal, shedding tears in a clip shared on social media.

When the host asked what he wanted, Mashal said, “Until you give permission to my sister and mother [back into universities]I will not teach.”

An Afghan student walks in front of Kabul University in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan
In December 2021, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers ordered an indefinite ban on women’s university education in the country. Photo: Ali Khara/Reuters

Even before the Taliban took over, the university was a difficult environment for Afghan women, who often faced harassment and discrimination. “He fought every day to prove that we deserved to be there [on campus]” says 23-year-old Samira*, a final year student. “But things got worse after the Taliban took over. They continued to restrict every movement, even the male professor was forbidden to ask questions. Now they have completely banned us.”

When Samira heard the news of the ban, she spent the evening preparing for the exams. “I can’t describe the pain. I’m in my last semester. I was a few months away from graduation. I wanted to go out and scream,” she says.

That night, she wrote in a WhatsApp group with her classmates: “Nobody cares about the future of women Afghanistan in danger?”

Many of her female classmates were already mobilizing on WhatsApp groups, discussing ways to protest the ban. In the last year and a half, despite threats and attacks, Afghan women have regularly protested in the streets against the regressive policies of the Taliban. However, few men joined them and they were often criticized for not participating in the demonstrations in an already weakened civil society.

With the ban on women’s higher education, men have also been empowered: in addition to the resignation of male teaching staff, male students have walked out of classrooms and exam halls in solidarity with their female classmates.

“We supported our sisters because we couldn’t take this injustice anymore,” said a 19-year-old male student who joined dozens of other students at Nangarhar University on December 21.

Similar protests were reported in other provinces, including Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni, where hundreds of students and teachers took to the streets, chanting “all or none” and demanding that women be allowed back on campus.

“Our sisters are talented and deserve better, but such bans on education will have a very negative and irreversible impact on our society. That’s why we [Afghan men] now we need to talk,” adds the student from Nangarhar.

Dissatisfaction with increasingly regressive policies and the climate of fear created by the Taliban was already high among Afghan scholars.

A man uses his mobile phone to read news about the arrest of Faizullah Jalal, a prominent Afghan university professor who has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban's harsh regime.
Professor Faizullah Jalal, who openly criticized the Taliban’s harsh regime, was arrested in January 2022. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

But the Taliban’s brutal response to dissent has discouraged many from taking action. One of the few academics who dared to speak was Professor Fayzullah Jalal was arrested in January last year.

“Before, we wanted to demonstrate against unfair decisions against our sisters. We had created groups to mobilize our classmates to raise our voice, but then the Taliban found out and sent threats to all group admins, and I had no choice but to remain silent,” says a student from Nangarhar.

But as the situation in Afghanistan worsens, men, especially in academia, are now questioning their silence. “University professors cannot choose [up] arms and oppose the Taliban and their decision. In any other democratic society, civil movements are one of the ways to fight,” says Ekleel.

“Although there is no justice or democracy under the Taliban, women have been protesting since the arrival of the Taliban, protecting our values. I think it is our duty to be with them.”

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