Opinion | Ban on women's education in Afghanistan shows Taliban haven't changed

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With a single decision, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers shattered the dreams of a generation of women. The Islamic regime announced on December 20 that women would be banned from attending universities, in addition to previous decrees that barred girls from attending primary and secondary education. “They destroyed the only bridge that could connect me with my future,” a Kabul University student told the BBC.

When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, they imposed a strict version of Islamic law, or sharia, that kept women out of schools and workplaces and swathed them in clothing from head to toe. When the Taliban were ousted after the 9/11 attacks, opening university classrooms to girls and women was a singular achievement. It provided a window of opportunity for women like Fawzia Koofi who, after 2001, earned a university degree in Pakistan and became one of the most outspoken women in the Afghan parliament and a leading advocate for women’s rights.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Taliban strikes another blow to Afghan women

Returning to power in August 2021 following the chaotic US withdrawal, the Taliban has vowed to take a more moderate stance in running the country. There is not. Shortly after the announcement, the young women saw the university gates being closed and Taliban guards blocking the way. Many educated Afghans who remained after the withdrawal and hoped for change are now likely to flee. The decision could lead to the proliferation of secret and banned study groups for women. Higher Education Minister Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban was necessary to prevent gender mixing in universities and because he believes that some subjects taught violate the principles of Islam. This is bullshit. What really happened is that the hardliners among the Taliban, those with the toughest customs in the Pashtun villages, triumphed over more moderate voices and factions.

Afghan women have periodically staged protests, but the Taliban has cracked down on such demonstrations in the past. The university ban seems like a point of no return. A university professor and Afghan activist, Homeira Qaderi, told the BBC: “Afghanistan is not a country for women, but a cage for women.” And the Taliban’s decision drew condemnation from Turkey and Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this was “neither Islamic nor humane” and added: “What harm is there in educating women? … Our religion, Islam, is not against education; on the contrary, it encourages education and science”.

On Saturday, the Taliban took another step to restrict women, banning them from working in non-governmental organizations, both domestic and foreign.

In September, the United States announced that some $3.5 billion in Afghanistan’s previously frozen central bank reserves will be transferred to a new fund in Switzerland to benefit the Afghan people by keeping them out of the Taliban’s reach. Afghanistan is still mired in an economic and humanitarian crisis, and these needs must be met, but the United States and its allies must not be fooled: the Taliban regime is sticking to the old, primitive approach to women, cruelly snuffing out their hopes and future. . 🇧🇷

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