Male students at Afghanistan’s Nangarhar University walked away from their exams in a show of solidarity with the female students to protest the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education.
The male students in Nangarhar and Kandahar demonstrated with placards against the Taliban diktat.
In its most recent assault on women’s rights and liberties, the Taliban’s higher education ministry issued an edict prohibiting women from attending universities in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, eliciting vehement worldwide condemnation.
The announcement came as the United Nations Security Council met in New York and the US State Department announced the release of two Americans detained by the Taliban.
Since taking over the nation last year, the Taliban have widely applied their stringent interpretation of Islamic law. They prohibited girls from attending middle and high school, barred them from the majority of jobs, and required them to dress completely in public.
The decision to ban women from public and private universities came following a meeting of Taliban leadership and represented the latest move by the country’s religious rulers to roll back women’s rights and flout international demands that human rights be respected. The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the status of primary education for Afghan girls.
“All I see ahead of us is a dark future that is getting closer and closer every day,” said a history student at Kabul’s Education University who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The 20-year-old history student said she hopes the Taliban would reconsider the ban before most public university students return from winter break next year, but she worries the move is a sign that the Taliban movement will treat women the same way it did when it last controlled most of Afghanistan in the 1990s.
At that time, women were barred from education at all levels, forced to conform to a strict dress code in public, banned from working and were not allowed to leave their homes without a male guardian. When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year after the U.S. withdrawal, many believed the group would rule with more leniency, but Taliban policies on the rights of women, free speech and other human rights have only become increasingly strict over the past year.