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Afghan Taliban use barbed wire fence and armed guards to keep women out of universities

The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan have fenced off at least one university in Kabul with barbed wire and posted armed guards to keep women out, according to several media reports.

As the taliban diktat on women’s higher education came into force, video obtained by The Associated Press showed women weeping and consoling each other outside a campus in Kabul.

“The Taliban have used barbed wire and armed guards to prevent Afghan women from entering universities. Yet, despite the intimidation, they protest alongside brave Afghan men, demanding women and girls be given their basic rights,” tweeted BBC anchor and correspondent Yalda Hakim. Hakim also posted a video of women holding up placards and raising slogans.

Several men have walked out of classrooms and many professors in Afghanistan’s universities have resigned in protest against the Taliban’s hardline measure to not allow women students in educational institutions.

Shabnam Nasimi, former policy advisor to minister for afghan resettlement & minister for refugee, tweeted an image of a burqa-clad woman standing outside a barbed wire gate, captioned: “If this image doesn’t break you, I don’t know what will. Despite Taliban banning female university education, this young woman stood outside Kabul University today, hoping that they may still let her in. The Taliban barbwired the main gate & only allowed male students to enter.”

The Taliban banned all female students from universities in Afghanistan on 20 December.

Following a meeting of the Taliban government, universities were instructed in a letter – confirmed by the regime’s higher education ministry – to suspend female students’ access immediately until further notice, in accordance with a cabinet decision.

The Taliban reassumed control of Kabul last August, as western forces brought a hasty end to their decades-long presence in the South Asian country.

Taliban armed guards were seen outside four Kabul universities on Wednesday. Rahimullah Nadeem, a spokesman for Kabul University, confirmed to AP that classes for female students had stopped. He said some women were allowed to enter the campus for paperwork and administrative reasons.

Afghanistan Protest Education (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Afghanistan Protest Education (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Women weep outside Edrak University in Kabul (AP)
Women weep outside Edrak University in Kabul (AP)

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

They have banned girls from middle school and high school, barred women from most fields of employment and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. Women are also banned from parks and gyms.

The move will hurt efforts by the Taliban to win international recognition for their government and aid from potential donors at a time when Afghanistan is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis. The international community has urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women their right to public space.

The Voice of America reported that dozens of Afghan women’s rights activists and female students staged protests in Kabul, Takhar, and Nangarhar provinces. According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, political activists and students also held a protest on Friday in Quetta.

The workers and supporters of the National Democratic Party (NDP) gathered in front of the Quetta Press Club where NDP Balochistan president Ahmed Jan Khan addressed the crowd, the paper reported.

(With additional reporting from agencies)