‘Our sisters deserve better’: Afghan men quit university jobs after ban on female students | Afghanistan

BAktash Amini loved his job as an assistant professor at Kabul University’s Faculty of Physics. In addition to having a passion for teaching, he took pride in helping his students pursue careers in physics, establishing partnerships with the International Center for Theoretical Physics and CERN, among others.

But her efforts to advance science education in Afghanistan seemed futile when the Taliban announced that women would be barred from university education. “The night [the] The Taliban closed the doors of universities to Afghan women, I received many messages and calls from my students. I cannot find the words to describe their situation. I am an academic and the only way I could express my protest was to [leaving] a system that discriminates against women,” he says. He resigned from his “dream job” on December 21.

Professor Amini is one of at least 60 Afghan scholars who have resigned in protest at the Taliban decree banning women from higher education. “The Taliban have taken women’s education hostage to their political advantages. It is a betrayal of the nation,” says Abdul Raqib Ekleel, professor of urban development at Kabul Polytechnic University, who also resigned from his post.

“Over the past year and a half, the Taliban have imposed many irrational demands on female students, such as regulating their clothing, hijab, separate classes, being accompanied by Mahram [legal male guardian] and the students obliged with all of them. Each teacher gave the same lectures twice a week, once for men and then for women. Despite this, the Taliban have always banned women,” Ekleel explains.

“These bans go against Islamic values ​​and against the national interest. It affects everyone, not just women. I could not be part of such a system,” he adds.

Another Kabul University professor ripped up his diplomas and educational documents on national television. “Today, if my sister and my mother cannot study, what use are these studies? [degrees] volume? Lo and behold, I tore up my original documents. I was a lecturer and I taught [students]but this country is no longer a place of education,” Ismail Mashal said in tears in a clip that has gone viral on social media.

When the presenter asked what he wanted, Mashal said, “Until you allow my sister and my mother [back into universities]I will not teach.

An Afghan student walks past Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan
Taliban leaders in Afghanistan ordered an indefinite ban on university education for women in the country in December 2021. Photograph: Ali Khara/Reuters

Even before the Taliban took over, university was often a difficult environment for Afghan women, who faced harassment and discrimination. “Every day was a struggle to prove we deserved to be here [on campus]“says Samira*, 23, a final year student. “But things have only gotten worse since the Taliban took over. They were restricting every move, even asking questions of a male teacher was forbidden. And now they’ve completely banned us.

Samira had spent the evening studying for exams when she heard about the ban. “I can’t describe the pain to you. I am in my last semester. I only had a few months left before I graduated. I wanted to come out and scream,” she said.

That night, she wrote on a WhatsApp group with her classmates: “Does anyone care that the future of Afghan women is at stake?

Many of his classmates were already mobilizing on WhatsApp groups, discussing ways to protest the ban. For a year and a half, Afghan women have regularly demonstrated in the streets against the regressive policies of the Taliban, despite threats and attacks. However, few men have joined them and have often been criticized for their absence from demonstrations in an already fragile civil society.

With the ban on higher education for women, however, the men intensified: in addition to the resignations of male teaching staff, male students left classrooms and examination halls in solidarity with their fellow students. of class.

“We stood up to support our sisters because we could not tolerate this injustice any longer,” said a 19-year-old student, who participated in the walkouts on December 21 along with dozens of other students from Nangarhar University.

Similar protests have been reported in other provinces – including Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni – with hundreds of students and professors staging walkouts and chanting “all or nothing” slogans, demanding that women be allowed to return to the campuses.

“Our sisters are talented and deserve better, but such education bans will also have a very negative and irreversible impact on our society. That is why we [Afghan men] need to talk now,” adds the student from Nangarhar.

Discontent with the increasingly regressive policies and environment of fear created by the Taliban was already high among Afghan scholars.

A man uses his mobile phone to read news reports about the arrest of a prominent Afghan university professor, Faizullah Jalal, who has openly criticized the radical Taliban regime.
Professor Faizullah Jalal, who has openly criticized the radical Taliban regime, was arrested in January 2022. Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

However, the Taliban’s heavy-handed reaction to dissent has discouraged many from taking action. One of the few scholars who dared to speak out was Professor Faizullah Jalal, who was arrested in January last year.

“Before, we wanted to demonstrate against unfair decisions towards our sisters. We had created groups to mobilize our classmates to make our voice heard, but the Taliban found out and sent threats to all the administrators of the group, and I had no choice but to remain silent”, explains the student of Nangarhar.

But, as the situation worsens in Afghanistan, men, especially in academia, are now questioning their silence. “University professors cannot choose [up] a gun and oppose the Taliban and their decision. In any other democratic society, civil movements are one of the means of struggle,” says Ekleel.

“Even though there is no justice or democracy under the Taliban, women have been protesting since the arrival of the Taliban, protecting our values ​​on their own. I think it is our duty to be by their side.

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