Male students call to end ban on women as Afghan universities reopen

By Salaam Times and AFP

A banner ordering women to cover themselves with a hijab is pictured at a private university after the universities were reopened in Kabul on March 6. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

A banner ordering women to cover themselves with a hijab is pictured at a private university after the universities were reopened in Kabul on March 6. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan universities reopened on Monday (March 6) after a winter break, but only men returned to class with the "heartbreaking" ban on women in higher education still in force.

The university ban is one of several restrictions imposed on women since August 2021 and has sparked global outrage -- including across the Muslim world.

"It's heartbreaking to see boys going to the university while we have to stay at home," said Rahela, 22, from Ghor province.

"This is gender discrimination against girls because Islam allows us to pursue higher education. Nobody should stop us from learning."

Male students attend their computer science class after the universities were reopened in Kabul on March 6. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Male students attend their computer science class after the universities were reopened in Kabul on March 6. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Authorities imposed the ban after accusing female students of ignoring a strict dress code and a requirement to be accompanied by a male relative to and from campus.

Most universities had already introduced gender-segregated entrances and classrooms, as well as allowing women to be taught only by female professors or elderly men.

"It's painful to see that thousands of girls are deprived of education today," said Mohammad Haseeb Habibzadah, a computer science student at Herat University.

"We are trying to address this issue by talking to lecturers and other students so that there can be a way where boys and girls could study and progress together."

Ejatullah Nejati, an engineering student at Kabul University, said it was a fundamental right of women to study.

"Even if they attend classes on separate days, it's not a problem. They have a right to education, and that right should be given to them," he said as he entered the university campus.

At Kabul's private Rana University, male students trickled back to classes on Monday.

"My sister, unfortunately, cannot come to the university. She is trying to study at home," said Ebratullah Rahimi, a journalism student.

Posters dating from before the ban showing how women needed to dress were still on display in the university corridors.

Standing for women's rights

Several officials say the ban on women's education is temporary, but despite promises, they have failed to reopen secondary schools for girls, which have been closed for more than a year.

There have been a litany of excuses for the closure, from a lack of funds to the time needed to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines.

The reality, according to some officials, is that ultra-conservative clerics are deeply sceptical of modern education for women.

The authorities want women to remain uneducated, Waheeda Durrani, a journalism student in Herat until she was barred from university last year, said.

"If Afghan girls and women get educated, they will never accept a government that exploits Islam and the Koran," she said.

"They will stand for their rights. That's the fear the government has."

Women and their supporters face an uphill battle.

In December, a professor in Kabul caused a storm by quitting and tearing up his diplomas on live television to protest the ban on women in universities.

"I'm raising my voice. I'm standing with my sisters... My protest will continue even if it costs my life," said Ismail Mashal, a lecturer in journalism for more than a decade at three universities 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," he told AFP December 30 at his office in Kabul.

He then handed out hundreds of free books to girls and women across Kabul until his arrest on February 2, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

"As the schools and universities are closed, I want these books to be distributed to impoverished Afghans," he told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, just hours before his arrest.

Several local media outlets reported last Thursday that Mashal had been released, but one of his relatives named Farid, who is also a lecturer, debunked the news, according to Khaama Press.

Rumours have been circulating on social media, but Mashal is still in detention, he said.

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This is an injustice that is done to Afghan girls by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should reconsider the education of girls and allow girls to continue getting their education, and not prevent them from studying, but let me remind one thing that if the United States really wants to solve this problem of Afghan girls, it can solve this problem as soon as possible because it will provide more financial aid to the current government of Afghanistan. Any country that gives financial aid to another country, they accept their words to the same extent. Girls are not deprived of education in any Islamic country, but in Afghanistan, based on the decree of the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, girls were deprived of getting education. This is an irreparable injustice against the Afghan girls. The United Nations and Islamic countries as well as countries of the whole world should show their reaction in relation to closing the gates of the girls' universities and schools. The United Nations and countries of the world should not keep quiet in reaction to this work of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and they should raise their voice to support the Afghan girls.


Due to the shortage of female doctors in Paktika province, male doctors have been appointed. In Paktika, a female doctor named Iqra says that only two female specialist doctors in the province cannot treat all the patients due to the increased number of patients. That is why they have appointed male doctors for the women. Hikmatullah Hikmat, director of the Department of Public Health of Paktika, said, "we only have two specialists in Paktika province, the positions of female doctors are vacant in the central hospital and we are trying to hire male doctors." Now the question arises, when the positions of female doctors are vacant, and you have advertised the vacant positions, in such a situation when universities and schools are closed for women, doctors cannot fall from the sky. Paktika has a population of 1.5 million but only three hospitals and two female doctors. This is the state of my country.


Today is 8 of March, and it is being celebrated worldwide, but girls and women in Afghanistan cannot celebrate this day openly due to the restrictions of the Taliban. Afghan women deprived of their fundamental rights, including education and work, face severe economic and psychological problems after the Taliban imposed restrictions on them. During the one-and-a-half-year rule of the Taliban, many restrictions have been imposed on women; girls above the sixth grade are not allowed to go to schools, they are banned from universities, and they are not allowed to work in governmental and non-governmental organizations except for some limited departments. At the same time, most of them are chiefs of their households. And the guardianship of the houses has been put on them because there has been a war in Afghanistan for years, and the young people have been killed by cutting wheat crops. So if the woman would not work, what will the children eat, what will they do, and what will they wear? Also, women's rights have been denied in social activities. The international community should help them to regain their basic rights. Some of these women were working in government and non-governmental organizations. They had regular salaries but now suffer from mental illnesses and are forced to borrow from others. They were working well, but they were banned by the Taliban two months ago, and at last, they began begging.


The ruling group in Afghanistan must realize they are going in the wrong direction. In no country in the world, the doors of any educational centre are closed for such a long time. What they are doing is a crime. This is a betrayal against Afghans. This is the destruction of new generations. This destroys future generations because when a woman is not educated, she cannot properly educate her children. When children are not appropriately trained, they grow up to commit crimes in society. The Holy Qur'an and Prophetic hadiths do not prohibit education. Instead, they command education. The first revealed word of the Holy Quran is Iqra (read). However, the educational system of madrassas supported by Pakistan's intelligence agency is designed so that women are looked at this [bad] way.


What is currently going on in Afghanistan is the result of the projects implemented by the Nebraska Institute against Afghans in Peshawar. In Peshawar, which is currently a part of the territory of Pakistan, young Afghan immigrants were taught how to kill a person, how to revive a system of 14 hundred years ago, how to insult and humiliate others. The bad result of the plan was not for other countries but for Afghanistan and Afghans themselves.