Afghan men quit university jobs after ban on female students

Afghan men quit university jobs after ban on female students

Afghan men quit university jobs after ban on female students

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Baktash Amini loved his job as an assistant professor in the physics department of Kabul University. In addition to having a passion for teaching, he prided himself on helping his students pursue careers in physics, establishing partnerships with the International Center for Theoretical Physics and Cern, among others.

But her efforts to promote 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 the universities to Afghan women, I received many messages and calls from my students. I can’t find the words to describe your situation. I am an academic and the only way I could express my protest was [leaving] a system that discriminates against women,” she says. She quit her “dream job” on December 21.

Professor Amini is among at least 60 Afghan academics who have resigned in protest of a Taliban decree barring women from higher education. “The Taliban have taken women’s education hostage to their political benefits. This is a betrayal of the nation,” says Abdul Raqib Ekleel, a professor of urban development at Kabul Polytechnic University, who also resigned from his position.

“In the last year and a half, the Taliban have made many unreasonable demands on the female students, such as regulating their clothing, hijab, separate classes, being accompanied by mahram [legal male guardian] and the students have pleased with all of them. Each professor gave the same lectures twice a week, once for men and then for women. Despite that, the Taliban still banned women,” says Ekleel.

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

I can’t describe the pain to you. I am in my last semester, with only a few more months to go before I graduate.

Samira, student

Another Kabul University professor tore up his qualifications and educational documents on national television. “Today, if my sister and my mother cannot study, what good are these studies? [degrees] me? Here you go, I am tearing up my original documents. I was a teacher and taught [students]but this country is no longer a place for education,” Ismail Mashal said tearfully in a clip that has gone viral on social media.

Asked by the host what he wanted, Mashal said, “Until you let my sister and mother [back into universities]I’m not going to teach.”

An Afghan student walks in front of Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan ordered an indefinite ban on university education for the country’s women in December 2021. Photo: Ali Khara/Reuters

Even before the Taliban took power, the university used to be a challenging environment for Afghan women, who suffered harassment and discrimination. “Every day was a fight to show that we deserved to be there. [on campus]”, says Samira*, 23, a senior. “But things have gotten worse since the Taliban took power. They kept restricting all movement, it was even forbidden to ask a teacher questions. And now they have completely banned us.”

Samira had spent the night studying for exams when she found out about the ban. “I can’t describe the pain to you. I am in my last semester. I only had a few more months left before I graduated. I wanted to go out there and scream,” she says.

That night, she wrote in a Whatsapp group with her colleagues: “Does anyone care that the future of the women of Afghanistan is at stake?”

Many of her classmates were already mobilizing in WhatsApp groups, discussing ways to protest the ban. Over the past year and a half, Afghan women have regularly protested in the streets against the regressive policies of the Taliban, despite threats and attacks. Yet few men have joined them and they have often been criticized for their absence from demonstrations in an already weakened civil society.

Related: ‘In two days I will have to beg on the street’: what the Taliban ban on the work of women’s NGOs means

However, with the ban on women’s higher education, men have stepped up: in addition to the resignation of male faculty, male students have walked out of classrooms and examination rooms in solidarity with their female classmates. .

“We stood up to support our sisters because we couldn’t take this injustice anymore,” says a 19-year-old student who participated in the December 21 strikes along with dozens of other Nangarhar University students.

Similar protests were reported in other provinces, including Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni, with hundreds of students and teachers organizing walkouts and chanting “all or none” slogans, demanding that women be allowed back on campus.

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

Discontent with the increasingly regressive policies and atmosphere of fear created by the Taliban was already running high among Afghan academics.

A man uses his mobile phone to read news about the arrest of a prominent Afghan university professor, Faizullah Jalal, who has been an outspoken critic of the hardline Taliban regime.

Professor Faizullah Jalal, who has been an outspoken critic of the hardline Taliban regime, was arrested in January 2022. Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

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

“Previously we wanted to speak out against decisions that were unfair to our sisters. We had created groups to mobilize classmates to speak up, but then the Taliban found out and sent threats to all the administrators of the group, and I had no choice but to keep silent,” says the student from Nangarhar.

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

“Although there is no justice and democracy under the Taliban, women have been protesting since the arrival of the Taliban, protecting our values ​​for themselves. I think it is our duty to be with them.”

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