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Afghan Women defiant despite University Ban by Taliban

Kabul: Women protested and cried outside universities as the ban was enforced. More and more countries have condemned the decision, with the UN urging a reversal.

Afghan women stood outside universities on Wednesday, many barred from entry by security forces enforcing a ban on female higher education imposed by the ruling Taliban a day before.

Women dressed in black cloaks and headscarves the dress code the Taliban has enforced since taking power in August 2021 gathered outside universities in Kabul and elsewhere. Many were crying over the dreams and aspirations they had for their futures until a day before.

“We all felt like caged birds, we hugged each other, screamed, and cried: ‘Why is this happening to us?'” Amini, a 23-year-old nursing student in Kunduz, told the French news agency AFP. 

Universities nationwide were on winter break when the ban was announced, but many students were at universities to take exams or study in libraries.

Some female students were allowed into campuses on Wednesday to finalize administrative procedures. Others were allowed to attend graduation ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday, a spokesman for Kabul University told the Associated Press.

Hasti, a third-year political studies student, is among the female students whose exams were canceled because of the ban. She told the Reuters news agency her exam preparations soon turned into mourning after the ban was announced.

“I have done my best to study; it is very hard for me, because right now I have to stop my studying and my goals are not achievable. … If the situation continues like this for women, it means women and girls are being buried alive,” she said.

How did people in Afghanistan respond?

Widely condemned internationally, people also made their frustration known at home. Aside from the gathering to protest the decision outside campuses amid heavy security presence, many took to social media to condemn the ban.

Twitter and Facebook users utilized the hashtag #LetHerLearn to protest the decision.

“We came to the university at 6:30 in the morning,” a student named Tamana Aref tweeted, with photos showing empty streets purportedly in the vicinity of Kardan University in Kabul. “The boys were allowed to enter, and they pointed guns at us and told us to go home.”

Another user, Hadia Rahmani, said on Facebook: “I knew this would happen one day, even going to the streets and roads will be banned until further notice.”

Who else has condemned the decision?

Outside the Afghan borders, the ban on female students at universities has been slammed by world leaders and rights organizations.

The UN mission in Afghanistan urged the Taliban administration to revoke the decision “immediately.” It also called for reopening girls schools beyond the sixth grade, another previously introduced curtailment on women’s educational rights.

The Taliban-run government should “end all measures preventing women and girls from participating fully in daily public life,” the UN said.

US officials meanwhile continued to pour on their condemnation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of the “consequences for the Taliban” the decision is bound to have. He added that no other country worldwide barred women and girls from education.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the ban as a “grave step backwards” in a Wednesday statement. He warned the Taliban that “the world is watching.

Zahra Sikandar
Written By

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