Women’s rights continue to decline in Afghanistan: the Taliban now deny them access to university. A decision denounced by the international community, which threatens the sanctions regime. Hypocritical reactions according to some observers, who believe that the West, in particular the United States which occupied the country for 20 years, could have had a real impact in the fight against the Taliban regime.
In Afghanistan, women can no longer go to university. Access to these places of higher education is now forbidden to them, because the latter did not “respect the dress code”, explained, Thursday, December 22, the Taliban Minister of Higher Education. New measures taken against women which, according to the G7, may constitute a “crime against humanity”.
On Tuesday evening, Minister Neda Mohammad Nadeem ordered all public and private universities to bar female students from attending classes, for an indefinite period.
On Thursday, he said he took this decision because “students who went to university (…) did not respect the instructions on the hijab. The hijab is compulsory in Islam”, insisted the minister of l ‘Higher education, referring to the obligation imposed on women in Afghanistan to cover their bodies, entirely, and their faces.
According to him, girls who studied in a province far from their home “did not travel with a ‘mahram’, an adult male companion either”.
“Our Afghan honor does not allow a young Muslim woman from one province to end up in a distant province without her father, brother or husband accompanying her,” Neda Mohammad Nadeem added on state television. .
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Madrassas also closed
For the Taliban official, some subjects were also not suitable: “Engineering, agriculture and some other courses do not correspond to the dignity and honor of female students and also to Afghan culture.”
Madrassas (Koranic schools) located inside mosques and which housed female students were also closed, he said.
After the Taliban took power in August 2021, universities were forced to adopt new rules, in particular to separate girls and boys during class hours.
Women were only allowed to be taught by teachers of the same sex or older men.
“Crime against humanity”
This new attack on women’s rights came as a shock to many young Afghan women (already excluded from secondary schools), and sparked international condemnation.
On Thursday, the G7 Foreign Ministers thus considered that the measures taken against women could amount to a “crime against humanity”.
On the same day, Unesco “firmly” condemned the ban on women entering universities, denouncing a “profound violation of human dignity and the fundamental right to education”.
The day before, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had judged that this “seriously undermined the credibility of the government”.
In his televised interview, the Minister of Higher Education for his part asked the international community “not to interfere” in the internal affairs of his country.
“The 20 years of American presence have been useless”
For Gauthier Rybinski, international columnist at France 24, Westerners are also to blame for the current setbacks. “The 20 years of American presence have been useless: by continuing to play on the usual policy of the Afghan clans, nothing has been founded. The women have been able to come out of their confinement, of their family prison, they have been able to study, but all of this was based solely on the presence of the United States and not on a movement to build society which would have allowed the sustainability of the thing.
While women who are arrested in the street because they have no male relative to watch over them risk whippings or even stoning, the international columnist recalls the terror put in place by the Taliban, and the denial of the West.
“Today, the West pretends to want to correct its own cowardice by imposing financial sanctions on the Taliban, but the Taliban don’t care: they are not there to develop the wealth of Afghanistan, but to rule in a totalitarian way and lining their pockets, so the sanctions will be like a sword in the water.”
On Thursday morning, around twenty Afghan women defied the regime by demonstrating in a street in Kabul to defend their right to study.
Some were arrested by policewomen, a protester told AFP on condition of anonymity. Two were released during the day, but several remained in detention, she added.
Initially planned in front of the campus of the Afghan capital, the largest and most prestigious, the gathering had to be moved due to the deployment of many armed members of the security forces.
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Such protests have become increasingly rare in Afghanistan since the arrest of prominent female activists earlier this year, while journalists are barred from covering rallies.
The day after the announcement, armed guards had been deployed in front of several universities to prevent female students from entering campuses.
“We are doomed, we have lost everything,” said one of them, refusing to be identified for fear of reprisals from the Taliban who patrolled around her establishment.
According to our correspondent in Pakistan, the beginning of a protest movement is visible, several students assuring that they will not give up. “We can expect clandestine lessons as is already the case for middle school and high school girls, with teachers who have become activists for the right to education for girls”, develops Sonia Ghezali. “There are also online courses, but the poverty in the country is such that many Afghan women cannot afford them,” adds the France 24 journalist.
Despite their promises to be more flexible, the Taliban have returned to the ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam that marked their first spell in power (1996-2001), and they have multiplied measures against women .
On March 23, they closed secondary schools for girls.
During the twenty years of occupation by the international forces, the various governments which had succeeded one another with the support of the West had allowed girls to go to school and women to find a job, even if the Afghanistan remained conservative in the social field.
Now women are excluded from many public jobs or paid a pittance to stay at home. They are also prohibited from traveling without being accompanied by a male relative and must wear a burqa or hijab when leaving their homes.
In November, the Taliban also banned them from entering parks, gardens, sports halls and public baths.