Taliban minister defends ban on women’s college education

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban government’s higher education minister on Thursday defended the decision to ban women from entering universities – an edict that has sparked a global backlash.

Discussing the issue in public for the first time, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent gender mixing in universities and because he believes certain subjects taught in violation of the principles of Islam. He said the ban was in place until further notice.

In an interview with Afghan television, Nadim dismissed widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Nadim says foreigners should stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Earlier on Thursday, foreign ministers from the group of G-7 nations called on the Taliban to lift the ban, warning that “gender repression could lead to a crime against humanity.” The ministers warned after an online meeting that “Taliban policies to exclude women from public life will have consequences for the way our countries communicate with the Taliban.” The G-7 group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

A former provincial governor, police chief and military commander, Nadim was appointed minister by the Taliban’s supreme leader in October and had previously pledged to eliminate secular schools. Nadim opposes female education, saying it goes against Islamic and Afghan values.

Other reasons he gave for the university’s ban were women’s failure to comply with the dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses.

“We tell girls to wear a headscarf properly, but they don’t and they wear skirts as if they were going to a wedding ceremony,” he said. Girls should study, but not in areas that go against Islam and the honor of the Afghan people.”

He added that work is underway to fix these problems and that universities will reopen to women once they are resolved. The Taliban also made similar promises about access to girls’ high schools, saying classes would resume for them after “technical problems” around uniforms and transportation were resolved. resolved, but the girls were still not allowed to go to class.

The Taliban have been trying to fix what he claims are problems they inherited from the previous administration since they took over last year. He alleges that people don’t follow the rules and this justifies the university’s ban.

In Afghanistan, there has been some domestic outcry against the university ban, including from some cricketers. Cricket is a hugely popular sport in this country and players have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

Another support program for female university students took place at Nangarhar Medical University. Local media reported that the boys had demonstrated in solidarity and refused to take the exam until women’s college admission rights were restored.

Although initially promising a more moderate rule respecting the rights of women and minorities, the Taliban have widely deployed their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, since they took power in August 2021.

They banned girls from middle and high school, banned women from most areas of employment, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms. At the same time, Afghan society, although largely traditional, has increasingly embraced the education of girls and women over the past two decades.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that the ban was “neither Muslim nor humane.” Speaking at a joint press conference with his Yemeni counterpart, he called on the Taliban to reverse their decision.

“What’s wrong with women’s education? What harm does it do to Afghanistan?” Cavusoglu said. “Is there an Islamic explanation? On the contrary, our religion, Islam, is not against education, on the contrary, it promotes education and science.”

Saudi Arabia, until 2019, enforced sweeping restrictions on women’s travel, employment and other key aspects of their daily lives, including driving, also urged the Taliban to change course.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry expressed “surprise and regret” at the refusal of Afghan women to attend university. In a statement late Wednesday, the ministry said the decision was “astonishing in all Muslim countries.”

Earlier, Qatar, which has ties to the Taliban government, also condemned the decision.

In the capital, Kabul, about two dozen women marched in the streets on Thursday, chanting in Dari for freedom and equality. “All or none. Fear not. We’re together,” they chanted.

In a video obtained by the Associated Press, a woman says Taliban security forces used violence to break up the group.

She said: “The girls were beaten and whipped. “They also brought in female soldiers, beat the girls. We ran away, some girls were caught. I don’t know what will happen.”

Girls have been banned from school after sixth grade since the return of the Taliban.

In the northeastern province of Takhar, teenage girls said the Taliban on Thursday forced them out of a private education training center and told them they no longer had the right to study. Zuhal, 15, a student, said the girls were beaten.

Maryam, 19, said while crying: “This training center is our hope. What can these girls do? They are full of hope and come here to learn. That is really a pity. (Taliban) took all our hopes away. They close schools, universities and training centers which are very small.”


Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed from Ankara, Turkey.


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