KABUL -- An Afghan academic who caused a storm by quitting and tearing up his diplomas on live television to protest the ban on women in universities has vowed to fight the order "even if it costs my life".
Ismail Mashal, 35, a lecturer in journalism for more than a decade at three universities in Kabul, shredded his qualifications and resigned from the institutions after the ban was issued in December.
"I'm raising my voice. I'm standing with my sisters... My protest will continue even if it costs my life," Mashal told AFP Friday (December 30) at his office in Kabul.
"As a man and as a teacher, I was unable to do anything else for them, and I felt that my certificates had become useless. So, I tore them up."
Footage of his December 27 outburst on TOLOnews went viral on social media.
Afghan men rarely protest so publicly in support of women, but Mashal said he would stand up for women's rights.
"In a society where books and pens are snatched away from mothers and sisters, it will lead only to crimes, poverty and humiliation," he said.
The ban on women attending university was imposed because they were not observing a strict Islamic dress code, authorities claimed.
But Mashal, who also runs an educational institution for men and women, dismissed that justification.
"They told us to implement the wearing of hijabs for women -- we did that. They told us to segregate classes -- we did that too," he said.
There is no logical reason for the ban, he said, adding that it "is affecting about 20 million girls".
The ban had no basis in Islamic Sharia law, Mashal added.
"The right to education for women has been given by God, by the Koran, by the Prophet [Mohammad] and our religion," he said holding religious books.
"So, why should we look down on women?"
Since August 2021, increasingly harsh restrictions on women have been effectively squeezing them out of public life.
Last week, authorities also ordered all aid groups to stop female employees from coming to work.
Secondary schools for girls have been closed for over a year, while many women have lost jobs in government and are being paid a fraction of their salary to stay home.
Women have also been barred from going to parks, gyms and public baths. They are blocked from travelling without a close male relative and must cover up in public.
"In my view, we are becoming regressive," said Mashal, whose wife lost her job as a teacher last year.
He is worried for his daughter, who is in sixth grade, the last year of primary school, after which the ban on education takes effect.
"I don't know how to tell her to stop studying after grade six," he said. "What crime has she committed?"
Women 'bravely fighting, resisting'
The bans on the activities of women and girls such as working for aid groups or going to school or university have resulted in their deletion from public life, said Fawzia Koofi, a former vice-president of the Afghan parliament.
"They have literally erased women; there is nothing left except that the next edict might be that women should not breathe," she told AFP in an interview last Thursday from London.
A family member had just asked her for help leaving, said Koofi.
The woman said she had not asked for help earlier because "I was working. And I thought, as long as I can work, I can live here."
But now that she was unable to work she said her dreams had been "shattered".
The former MP, who survived two assassination attempts in Afghanistan, said she felt unable to help because "if everyone leaves Afghanistan, what will happen?"
She urged the world to support the women of Afghanistan who were "bravely fighting, resisting, in their own ways".
"They are being arrested; they are being tortured," she said.
"I think it's time for the world to recognise our struggles."
Women's protests of the restrictions imposed on them will not be be easily suppressed in the long term, Koofi predicted.
"That is bravery. I think this will continue because for women, they have nothing else to lose."
Ustad Mashal is a brave and intelligent Afghan. He knows that if today he would not seek the right to education for his sister and daughter, tomorrow, the same sister or daughter will be in a hospital in Pakistan, Iran, or India... and a foreign male doctor will touch her. Ustad Mashal knows it is painful that he revealed his original documents in a TV interview a few days ago. This is a kind of a strike, but we Afghans are being ruled by foreign agents in the name of officials, who have unfortunately dealt a blow to Afghanistan in a few months and stopped it from moving forward. I wish all of us (men) had gone on a united strike against the ban on women's education and demanded our rights and not backed down until schools and universities were opened to women, but we are very different people. In response to the closure of universities against women/girls, most of us started a one-day struggle on Facebook, and we ended it the following day. The struggle needed to continue till now, and regular protests were being held.Reply
There is no other way for Afghan men to defend the rights of their sisters except to either burn their diplomas or resign from their duties. Think that these professors who burned their documents in front of the media, could do what they did. There is no freedom of speech in Afghanistan. The voice of the Afghan people have been silenced. The men of Afghanistan are dead. Whoever plays with their destiny, they are silent. In Afghanistan, from 1977 to 2022, the fate of the poor people; women and men of Afghanistan is being played on. And the poor people of Afghanistan have never defended their rights. Fawzia Kofi also participated in Afghanistan's High Peace Council. Her words are not reliable. Again, the fate of women is played with. They should have resigned from their duty. In Afghanistan, everyone screams for ten days, and after a few days, the poor nation is left alone and they flee for abroad. No one has made a stand on the side of this poor nation, so that this poor nation stands up and defends the rights of the poor people of Afghanistan who always protect the rights and rights of the poor people of Afghanistan. The poor people of Afghanistan have always been preyed upon by these warlords for a single bite of bread.Reply
Whatever happens, is the game of our ignorance and the intelligence organizations of the region and the world. Local and some Western organizations also have hands behind our ignorance. Pakistan's intelligence agency, supported by the British, has been destroying schools in Afghanistan's villages and even cities at the hands of armed insurgents for the past four and a half decades. This is what I have seen with my own eyes. Armed rebels destroyed three schools in our area. They were the rebels trained in Pakistan by that country's army and intelligence agencies. Pakistani military and intelligence officers would tell the armed insurgents to destroy schools so that the new generation would remain illiterate. If you read the school, you will become a disbeliever, and no one will help you in the war. They also told him to destroy the power dams, highways, and roads so that government vehicles and tanks could not pass on them. These armed men destroyed roads built with the money of the people of the West, especially the United States. What was built with European donations was destroyed by Pakistan-backed militants. This was done several times over several periods. It happened once in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then it happened in the 1990s. Then it happened after 2001. Pakistan's intelligence agency and army were behind all this. In the first period, they received money from the West and destroyed Afghanistan, and in recent years they received money from Russia and China andReply