Afghan men quit university jobs after female students were banned

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Baktaş Amini loved her 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 barred from university education. “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 Amini is among at least 60 Afghan academics who resigned to protest the Taliban’s decree banning women from higher education. “The Taliban took the education of women hostage for their political interests. “This is treason to the nation,” says Abdul Raqib Ekelel, a lecturer on urban development at Kabul Polytechnic University, who has also resigned from his post.

“Over the past year and a half, the Taliban have made many unreasonable demands on female students, such as arranging their clothes, headscarves, setting up separate classrooms, accompanying them. private [legal male guardian] and the students were compelled with all of them. Each professor taught the same classes twice a week, once for the male, then for the 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 part of such a system,” he adds.

I cannot describe the pain to you. I’m in my last semester, only a few months away from graduating

Samira, student

Another lecturer at Kabul University tore up his degrees and training papers on national television. “If my sister and mother can’t read today, what good is this education? [degrees] according to me? Here you go, I’m tearing up my originals. 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. And now they’ve 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 to a WhatsApp group with her classmates: “Doesn’t anyone care if the future of Afghan women is at stake?”

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.

Related: ‘I’ll have to beg on the streets in two days’: What does it mean when the Taliban prevent women’s NGOs from working?

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 could no longer tolerate this injustice,” 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 chanting “all or nothing” to demand 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. so we [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 had the courage to speak up is Prof., who was arrested in January last year. Faizullah Celal.

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

But as the situation worsens in Afghanistan, men, especially in academia, are now questioning their silence. “University cannot elect 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.

“Even though there is no justice or democracy in the Taliban rule, women have been protesting since the arrival of the Taliban and stand alone to protect our values. I think it’s our duty to stand by them.”

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