The world woke up to a rude shock on Tuesday this week. The Taliban announced that all women were being banned from universities across Afghanistan. In a statement, Nida Mohammad Nadim the minister for higher education announced that the decision would be implemented with immediate effect.
Following the announcements, social media was flooded with videos of Afghan students in deep anguish. The visuals of young Afghan women crying inconsolably while simultaneously comforting each other were heart wrenching to say the least.
This decision is one in a spate of announcements made by the Taliban since taking control of the nation in 2021, which curtail women’s rights and their ability to acquire education, jobs and independence. Upon coming to power the Taliban had excluded girls from secondary schools, various places of work. Women are also no longer allowed to go to parks and gyms.
Some women came out in protest as did a few male students. However, all protests were shut down by using brute force.
Defending the action, Nida Mohammad Nadim explained that the ban was put in place for various reasons. Preventing people of both genders from mingling with each other was one of the reasons stated by him while being interviewed on Afghan television. He also stated that women were pursuing subjects such as engineering and agriculture which violate the principles of Islam.
Rush of International Condemnation
The decision by the Taliban has not gone unnoticed by the world. Reacting to it the G-7 group’s foreign minister said, “gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity.” In a virtual meeting the ministers present stated that, “Taliban policies designed to erase women from public life will have consequences for how our countries engage with the Taliban.”
Other Islamic nations have also come forward to condemn the action taken by Taliban. MevlutCavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign minister declared that the ban is ‘enither Islamic nor humane’ and urged the Taliban to revoke the ban. Speaking at a joint news conference with his Yemeni counterpart he said, “What harm is there in women’s education? What harm does it do to Afghanistan?” he further said that Islam is not against education; ‘on the contrary, it encourages education and science’.
Similarly, the Saudi foreign ministry expressed “astonishment and regret” at the Taliban’s decision to ban women from pursuing higher education.
Reacting to the ban, the United Nations special rapporteur to Afghanistan echoed the sentiments of the rest of the world and said that this was “a new low, further violating the right to equal education and deepens the erasure of women from Afghan society”.
British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunakpresented an emotional reaction in a Tweet that read, "As a father to daughters, I cannot imagine a world in which they're denied an education." He further added "The women of Afghanistan have so much to offer. Denying them access to university is a grave step backwards. The world is watching. We will judge the Taliban by their actions”.
What This Decision Means For Women
At this juncture it feels rather redundant to even highlight the merits of women’s education.
Educating girls has a tremendous effect of not only communities but also positively influences countries and the world in general. But on a personal level, education empowers girls and women with the ability to build a better life for themselves.
Girls who are educated are much more likely to leas healthy and productive lives. They are also less likely to marry young. Education imparts women with the ability to stand on their own two feet. It allows them to earn an income, provides them with the confidence to participate in key life decisions. Educated girls build happier and better educated families.
From the birds eye perspective, educating the other half of the global population can have a profound impact on global economies. It also helps reduce inequality across the world which has been a global concern since ages.
A society which encourages its women to be educated in often more stable and prosperous.
However, this valuable catalyst has been snatched away from Afghan women. This indeed is a dark day in modern history. We can only urge Afghan women to stay strong in these difficult time. The whole world is standing with them in their sorrow today.