Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Homechevron_rightWorldchevron_rightWidening gender...

Widening gender inequality in Afghanistan; Saudi urges Taliban to re-open university to women


London: Saudi Arabia has joined calls for the Taliban to change their mind about prohibiting women from attending higher education institutions in Afghanistan. It happened a day after the organisation gave a nationwide directive telling women to stop enrolling in private and public universities until further notice.

The decision was met with surprise and disappointment in all Muslim nations, according to the foreign ministry of the Kingdom.

The decision, according to the statement, deprived Afghan women of their full legal rights and the right to an education, both of which help Afghanistan's security, stability, growth, and prosperity.

On Wednesday, the Taliban's security personnel in the Afghan capital prevented women from entering institutions, enforcing the prohibition on women attending higher education. Outside one college in Kabul, women were captured on camera sobbing and comforting one another.

Late on Tuesday, the Taliban leadership issued a brief statement in which it declared the most recent restriction on the rights of women and girls.

“You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending the education of females until further notice,” said Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the Taliban’s minister for higher education

The announcement is just the most recent in a series of ever stricter limitations on Afghan women's liberties, which now include requirements for facial coverings and a prohibition on travelling without a male escort.

According to Afghanistan's former national security adviser, public discontent with the administration and its restrictive policies looks to be rising, echoing the current women-led protest movement in neighbouring Iran.

“I think with every passing day, the Afghan people’s frustration is growing with the Taliban’s oppression,” Hamdullah Mohib, national security adviser to the deposed Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani, told the Arab News talk show “Frankly Speaking” in October, AFP reported.

“If this situation continues, this oppression of the Afghan people continues, I’m certain that there will be mass mobilization in the country. It’s just a matter of when it will be.”

Governments and religious leaders swiftly condemned the ban on Tuesday. It was "seriously denting the credibility of the government," according to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Everyone deserves the right to an education, according to Qatar, which has been instrumental in facilitating talks between the West and the Taliban. Qatar also urged Afghanistan's leaders to review their decision "in line with the teachings of the Islamic religion."

Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbour, condemned the decision but asserted that dealing with the Taliban was still the best course of action.

“I still think the easiest path to our goal, despite having a lot of setbacks when it comes to women’s education and other things, is through Kabul and the interim government,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Pakistani foreign minister, said

The Taliban rule will become even more isolated from the rest of the world, the US warned soon after the ban was implemented.

“The Taliban should expect that this decision, which is in contravention to the commitments they have made repeatedly and publicly to their own people, will carry concrete costs for them,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said.

“They have seriously, possibly even fatally, undermined one of their deepest ambitions … and that is an improvement and betterment of relations with the US and the rest of the world.

“This unacceptable stance will have significant consequences for the Taliban and will further alienate the Taliban from the international community and deny them the legitimacy they desire.”

The prohibition "deeply alarmed" UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock promised to put the matter on the agenda of the G7 club of wealthy countries, which Germany now chairs.

Although the nation remained socially conservative throughout the 20 years between the Taliban's two rules, girls were permitted to attend school and women were free to pursue employment in all industries.

These minor gains have been severely reversed by the Taliban's return. According to a recent UN-cited survey of Afghan women, only 4% of them stated they always had enough to eat, and a quarter said their income had completely vanished.

According to reports, family violence and femicide are on the rise, and a poll indicated that 57% of Afghan women get married before becoming 19 years old. Even families have been known to sell their daughters and their belongings in order to get food.

The way the Taliban treats women may also be making matters worse for Afghanistan as a whole. According to the UN, keeping women out of the workforce costs Afghanistan up to $1 billion, or 5% of its GDP.

According to studies, a girl's earnings as an adult can increase by up to 20% for every additional year spent in school. This has additional benefits for reducing poverty, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality, increasing HIV prevention, and reducing violence against women.

“The status of Afghan girls and women has rarely been good, even when the Taliban weren’t in power,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, told Arab News.

“But this rapid-fire succession of restrictions on their dress, movement, work, and education is taking them back to a point that they haven’t been in since the 1990s when the Taliban were last in control.

“I’d argue things could get worse now than they were in the 1990s because today, unlike back then, the Taliban have control over the entire country and there are no substantive pockets of resistance. This means pushback against these types of policies will be even tougher to pull off than it was in the 1990s.”

After striking a weak peace agreement with the Taliban in August 2021, the US beat a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan. Since then, the nation has experienced an economic crisis, widespread poverty, and isolation from the rest of the world.

The Taliban attempted to persuade the world during talks in Doha that it had evolved since its previous rule from 1996 to 2001 when a hardline interpretation of Islam resulted in the exclusion of women and girls from education and public life, as well as the widespread repression of free speech.

However, after regaining power, the dictatorship reinstated a number of these restrictions, undoing two decades of moderate progress for women's rights and the establishment of the country's institutional framework.

"It’s painful to say, but this decision isn’t that surprising,” said Kugelman. “For months, the Taliban have been reimposing many of their most draconian policies from the 1990s, and so this is just the latest step — an especially traumatic one for Afghan women and girls — of their ongoing strategy to impose their dreadful ideology across society.”

The Taliban initially stated that it would modify its more radical positions and uphold all commitments related to human rights, especially those of women. Nevertheless, the administration imposed hijabs as part of a required dress code and separated the genders in university entrances and classrooms just one month after retaking power.

The Taliban then quickly reversed the order on March 23, when girls' secondary schools were set to resume, preventing tens of thousands of adolescent females from gaining an education. Girls in primary school are still allowed to attend school through the sixth grade, at least for the time being.

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, issued an order in May requiring women to stay at home, fully cover themselves in public, including their faces, and only travel between cities with a male escort. A new rule prohibiting women from visiting parks, fairs, gyms, and public baths went into effect in November.

There have been conflicting messages from High-ranking Taliban officials regarding the education of women and children, which may be a sign of a split between the hard-line Taliban leaders operating out of Kandahar and the more moderate leaders overseeing operations in the capital.

“To be sure, plenty of Taliban leaders reject this move,” said Kugelman. “The fact that it still happened is a reflection of the ideological divides within the group as well as of the power of the Kandahar-based supreme Taliban leader and his allies.

“They’re the most ideologically hard-line faction within the Taliban, and it’s here where power — including veto power to reverse moves made by leaders in Kabul — truly lies.”

The Taliban regime is unlikely to get billions of dollars in badly needed aid, loans, and frozen assets held by the US, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank unless it demonstrates a willingness to soften its tough stance, notably on issues relating to women's rights.

“The international community can and will offer its condemnations of the move and its expressions of solidarity for Afghan girls and women, and that’s the right thing to do. But at the end of the day, there’s little it can do of substance that can change this sad state of affairs,” said Kugelman.

“The Taliban aren’t about to moderate their core ideology, and the top leadership doesn’t care if this closes off opportunities for international financial assistance and formal diplomatic recognition. What matters to those calling the shots within the Taliban is that their core ideology continues to be imposed across the country.”

Although Kugelman recognises that Afghans are generally against the Taliban's tightening restrictions, he doesn't believe that civil society currently has the power to undermine the authority of the government.

“To be sure, potential internal resistance is something to watch. Already we’ve seen male students walk out of their classrooms in solidarity with their female classmates, and that’s a key data point. Afghanistan may have a patriarchal society, but that doesn’t mean that the country — including its men — will just want to shrug this off,” he said.

“But the question at hand is not a lack of will to resist, but a lack of capacity. The Taliban rule with an iron fist, and unless there are protests that grow so big they can’t control them, they will likely not hesitate to curb any dissent and opposition to this move.”

Show Full Article
TAGS:AfghanistanTalibanWomen's Rights
Next Story