Afghanistan’s University Ban: Women being barred from universities utter devastation

  • The Taliban expelled Bilqees Mohmand from college after announcing a ban on university education for women.
  • Her dream of becoming a doctor has now burst.
  • Secretary of State Penny Wong condemned the Taliban’s announcement in a joint statement with 12 other countries.
Books in hand, Bilqees Mohmand entered her college building with a sense of trepidation.
Hours earlier, she was devastated to hear that Afghan Taliban rulers had imposed emergency measures .

But the 18-year-old studied English at a language academy in Kabul and was naïve in hoping to continue her studies there.

I wish I wasn’t born in this country.

Bilqees Mohmand

As she entered her classroom with her classmates, a Taliban officer followed her and told them they were not welcome to continue their studies.
“[The Taliban] told us you are not allowed in here, you must leave this room. And we were very sad. All of a sudden we started crying,” she told SBS News.
Shortly after walking in on Tuesday, she went home and described it as “the worst day of her life.”

“We have no more life in Afghanistan. I wish I wasn’t born in this country,” she said.

Bilqees recently graduated from high school and was preparing to apply to a private university in Kabul, where she lives, with hopes of studying medicine.
Now she said her dream of opening a hospital in Afghanistan was shattered.
“An education day without students is a lost day for the future of the country,” she said.
“Maybe in the future, [The Taliban] will never allow a woman to take her feet out of the house.”

The Taliban adhere to a conservative interpretation of Islam, with the movement’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of Afghan clergy opposed to modern education, particularly for girls and women.

Latest Taliban actions against women

Universities are the latest area to be blacklisted for women, after the Taliban also banned them from parks, gyms, amusement parks and public baths in November this year.

Marwa Moeen narrowly escaped the fate of nearly 20 million women in Afghanistan after fleeing the country during the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last August.

Woman with a white headscarf is standing at UTS.

Marwa Moeen was a student in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power. Source: SBS News

After seizing Kabul, the Taliban insisted they were enforcing a softer rule than when they were last in power from 1996 to 2001, until US forces drove them out of the region.

Since they regained power, university classes have been ordered to be sex-segregated and secondary education for girls has also been banned, despite an earlier promise to reopen it in March this year.
Marwa said the Taliban’s recent spate of public affairs bans on women was an indication her rhetoric was untrue.
“[The Taliban] said we will not close universities, we will not close schools, we will not close shops or job opportunities for girls. Now they’re showing their true colors,” she said.
“These Taliban: They were animals and they are animals.”

She studied bachelor’s degree in business administration before fleeing to Australia last year.

Now, with a passion for telling stories about the “strength” of Afghan women, she has been offered a position at the Technical University to study journalism next year.
But she looks back with despair: her sister, who is stuck in Afghanistan, can no longer complete her medical studies.
“It’s not just my sister over there. It’s for all the girls who live there. They are all my sisters. they are all my friends It’s heartbreaking for her.”
Ms. Moeen likened women receiving an education to a critical mission to be accomplished.
“Imagine a mission was incomplete – how would the people working on that mission feel?”

Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Thursday joined in the chorus of condemnation of the Taliban’s university ban.

Senator Wong signed a joint statement with 12 countries and the European Union condemning the Taliban’s “relentless and systematic” actions against girls and women.
“The ingenuity and dynamism of Afghan women are sorely needed to help alleviate profound and distressing economic and humanitarian needs,” the statement said.
“Taliban policies aimed at wiping out women from public life will have an impact on how our countries deal with the Taliban.

“Our primary concern will continue to be the well-being, rights and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan.”

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