Afghanistan: Male students strike after Taliban ban women from universities

Afghanistan: Male students strike after Taliban ban women from universities
Male Afghan students on Wednesday protested against the Taliban's decision to ban their female peers from university, with videos showing young men marching out of their exams and demonstrating on the street alongside women.
3 min read
21 December, 2022
The Taliban had initially promised to protect women's rights when they returned to power in August 2021 [source: Getty]

Male Afghan students walked out of their exams on Wednesday in protest against the Taliban's latest decree which bans women from attending university. 

Medical students from the Nangarhar Faculty of Medicine could be seen walking out of their exams to the sound of applause from their female peers in videos circulated widely online.

Sources inside the country confirmed to The New Arab that male-led protests took place in the Jalalabad university, and said similar acts of defiance were reported in Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban

A young Afghan woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Afghan women and young girls are really in crisis. This is no support. We will be destroyed here." 

The Taliban issued the university order on Tuesday, saying an indefinite ban would take effect immediately until education facilities were made "suitable" for women. 

Since the hardline group returned to power in August 2021, a majority of Afghan girls have been shut out of secondary schools. Save the Children estimated earlier this year that around 850,000 girls out of 1.1 million are not attending class. 

Until now, Afghan women were able to attend university despite restrictions on their clothing, gender segregation in classrooms, and orders preventing them from taking certain subjects such as economics or agriculture. 

Tuesday’s decree has been widely condemned as a blow to the aspirations of young women and the country as a whole. 

"Today we stand in solidarity with our sisters and daughters of #Afghanistan in demanding that the decision on high school ban for girls and university ban for women be reversed. Every day of education wasted is a day wasted from the future of the country," wrote Afghan cricketer Rahmanullah Gurbaz on Twitter. 

This crackdown on women’s rights has also encompassed a series of restrictions that exclude women from parks, gyms and public baths in the capital. There have been a series of worrying reports of public floggings in Afghanistan, including women being beaten for "moral crimes" and alleged adultery. 

The Taliban initially claimed they would offer a more progressive, liberalised rulership compared to their previous stint in power. International observers have argued that the group is becoming increasingly beholden to a select inner circle of ultra-conservative members.