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

BAktaş Amini loved his job as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Physics at Kabul University. Alongside his passion for teaching, he was proud to help his students pursue careers in physics through partnerships with the International Center for Theoretical Physics and CERN, among others.

But efforts to advance scientific education in Afghanistan proved futile when the Taliban announced that women would be killed. university education banned. “Night [the] The Taliban closed the doors of universities to Afghan women, and I received many messages and calls from my students. I can’t find the words to describe their situation. I am an academic and the only way I can express my protest [leaving] It is a system that discriminates against women.” He resigned from his “dream job” on December 21.

prof. Among the amine at least 60 Afghan academics who resigned to protest the Taliban’s decision exclusion of women from higher education. “The Taliban have held women’s education hostage for their political interests. “This is treason to the nation,” says Abdul Raqib Ekelel, a lecturer in urban development at Kabul Polytechnic University who has also resigned from his post.

“In the last year and a half, Taliban made many unreasonable demands from female students such as the arrangement of their clothes, headscarves, separate classes, and companionship. private [legal male guardian] and the students were compelled with all of them. Each professor taught the same classes twice a week, one male and then female. Despite this, the Taliban banned women,” says Ekelel.

“These bans are against Islamic values ​​and national interests. It affects everyone, not just women. I cannot be a part of such a system,” she adds.

Another lecturer at Kabul University ripped off his degrees and education papers on national television. “What good are these trainings if my sister and mother can’t read today? [degrees] Is it me? Here you go, I’m tearing up my original documents. I was a lecturer and taught [students]But this country is no longer a place of education,” said İsmail Meshal, and cried in a clip that went viral on social media.

When the host asked what he wanted, Mashal replied, “Until you let me, my sister and mother [back into universities]I will not teach.”

An Afghan student walking in front of Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers ordered an indefinite ban from university education for women in the country in December 2021. Photo: Ali Khara/Reuters

Even before the Taliban took over, college was often a harsh environment for Afghan women, who faced harassment and discrimination. “It was a struggle to prove that we deserved to be there every day. [on campus]Says Samira, a 23-year-old senior. “But things have gotten worse since the Taliban took over. They continued to restrict every movement, even asking questions to the male professor was forbidden. Now they have banned us completely.”

When Samira heard about the ban, she had spent the evening studying for exams. “I can’t describe the pain to you. I’m in my last semester. I only had a few months to graduate. I wanted to go out and scream,” she says.

That night, she wrote in a WhatsApp group with her classmates: “Nobody cares about women’s future? Afghanistan in danger?”

Many of her female classmates had already taken action in their WhatsApp groups, discussing ways to protest the ban. In the past year and a half, Afghan women have regularly protested in the streets against the reactionary policies of the Taliban, despite threats and attacks. However, few joined them, and they were often criticized for not participating in demonstrations in an already weakened civil society.

But with the ban on women’s higher education, men stepped up: besides the resignation of male lecturers, male students left classrooms and exam halls in solidarity with their female classmates.

“We stood up to support our sisters because we couldn’t tolerate this injustice any longer,” says a 19-year-old male student who attended the marches with dozens of students from Nangarhar University on December 21.

Similar protests were reported in other provinces, including Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni, with hundreds of students and lecturers holding walkouts and shouting “all or nothing” slogans, demanding that women be allowed to return to campuses.

“Our sisters are talented and deserve better, but such bans on education will also affect our society in a very negative, irreversible way. [Afghan men] Now I have to speak,” adds a student from Nangarhar.

Dissatisfaction with the growing reactionary policies and fear created by the Taliban were already high among Afghan academics.

A man uses his cell phone to read the news about the arrest of Feyzullah Jalal, a prominent Afghan university professor who was openly critical of the hardline Taliban regime.
Openly criticizing the hard-line regime of the Taliban, Prof. Faizullah Celal was arrested in January 2022. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

However, the Taliban’s brutal response to the opposition deterred many from taking action. One of the few academics who dared to speak is Prof. arrested in January last year

“We wanted to demonstrate against decisions that were unfair to our older sisters before. We formed groups to mobilize our classmates to raise our voices, but later the Taliban found out about this and sent threats to all the group leaders and I had no choice but to remain silent,” said a student from Nangarhar. .

But as the situation worsens in Afghanistan, men, especially in academia, are now questioning their silence. “University can’t choose professors [up] a weapon and stand up to the Taliban and their decision. In any other democratic society, civic movements are one way to fight,” says Ekelel.

“Despite the lack of justice and democracy under the Taliban, women have been protesting since the Taliban came and they stand alone and uphold our values. I think it is our duty to stand by them.”

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