2021-09-27 23:12:57 New Taliban Chancellor Bars Women From Kabul University

New Taliban Chancellor Bars Women From Kabul University

The Taliban’s new chancellor for Kabul University announced on Monday that women would be barred from the institution indefinitely, either as instructors or students, tightening the group’s restrictions on women.

In a tweet on Monday, Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat said, “I give you my words as chancellor of Kabul University.” “Women will not be allowed to attend universities or work as long as a true Islamic environment is not provided for all. First and foremost, Islam.”

The new university policy harkens back to the Taliban’s first tenure in power in the 1990s, when women were only permitted to go out in public if accompanied by a male relative, were beaten for disobeying, and were barred from attending school entirely.

Some female staff members who have worked in relative freedom for the past two decades reacted angrily to the new decree, questioning the Taliban’s monopoly on defining Islam.

“There was nothing un-Islamic in this holy place,” one female lecturer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, as did several others interviewed by The New York Times. “Presidents, teachers, engineers, and even mullahs are trained and gifted here,” she said. “Afghanistan’s national home is Kabul University.”

In the days following the Taliban’s takeover of power in August, officials went out of their way to emphasize that this would be a better time for women, who would be allowed to study, work, and even participate in government.

But none of this has occurred. The Taliban recently appointed an all-male cabinet. The new government has also barred women from returning to work, citing security concerns, though officials have stated that this is only a temporary measure. (The original Taliban movement did the same thing in the 1990s, but never followed through.)

Mr. Ghairat, a 34-year-old Taliban devotee who has referred to the country’s schools as “centers for prostitution,” took over as president of Kabul University, the country’s premier college, two weeks ago.

It was another grave blow to an Afghan higher education system that had been buoyed for years by hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, but has been reeling since the group’s return to power.

“There is no hope, the entire higher education system is collapsing,” said Hamid Obaidi, the former spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education who was also a lecturer at the Journalism School of Kabul University. “Everything was destroyed.”

Because their schools are closed, tens of thousands of public university students are staying at home. The American University in Afghanistan, in which the United States invested more than $100 million, has been completely abandoned and taken over by the Taliban.

Professors and lecturers from across the country, many of whom were educated overseas, have fled their posts in anticipation of more stringent regulations from the Taliban. In their wake, the government is appointing religious purists to lead the institutions, many of whom have little academic experience.

In a symbolic act of resistance, the teachers union of Afghanistan sent a letter last week to the government demanding that it rescind Mr. Ghairat’s appointment. The young chancellor was also criticized on social media for his lack of academic experience. Reached by The Times, some of his classmates described him as an isolated student with extremist views who had problems with female classmates and lecturers.

“I haven’t even started the job yet,” Mr. Ghairat said, rejecting concerns about his appointment in an interview with The Times. “How do they know if I am qualified or not? Let time be the judge,” he said, adding that his 15 years working on cultural affairs for the Taliban made him a perfect candidate for the job.

The Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, tried to soften Mr. Ghairat’s announcement that women could not return to Kabul University, telling The Times, “It might be his own personal view.” But he would not give any assurances as to when the ban on women would be rescinded, saying that until then the Taliban were working to devise a “safer transportation system and an environment where female students are protected.”

While some women have returned to class at private universities, the country’s public universities remain closed. Even if they reopen, it appears that women will be required to attend segregated classes, with only women as instructors. But with so few female teachers available — and many of them still publicly restricted from working — many women will almost certainly have no classes to attend.

During the country’s civil war in the early 1990s, universities mostly remained closed. When the Taliban took power, in 1996, they brought the civil war mostly to an end but did little to revive their higher education system. Women and girls were prohibited from attending school altogether.

Following the American invasion in 2001, the United State poured more than a billion dollars into expanding and strengthening Afghanistan’s colleges and universities. America’s allies, as well as international institutions like the World Bank, spent heavily as well. By 2021, there were more than 150 institutions of higher education, which educated nearly a half million students — approximately a third of whom were women.

Foreign aid for higher education came to an abrupt halt after the Taliban takeover in August. Money from the United States and its NATO allies ended, as did funding from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That effectively deprived thousands of government workers and teachers of their salaries.
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New Taliban Chancellor Bars Women From Kabul University