Afghan Official: Leaders Want Women Back in College

Decision on lifting the ban is up to Taliban leader
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 12, 2023 2:50 PM CDT
Afghan Official: Leaders Want Women Back in College
A 40-year-old Afghan woman leaves an underground school in Kabul last July.   (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Afghanistan's universities are ready to readmit female students, but the ruling Taliban's leader has the ultimate say on when that might happen—if it happens at all, an education official said Saturday. "All our leaders are in favor" of restarting girls' education, he said, "even our ministers are in favor of it." The Taliban barred women from campuses last December, triggering global outrage. Girls were prohibited from attending school beyond sixth grade soon after the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. The minister for higher education, Nida Mohammed Nadim, said at the time the ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders and because some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam, per the AP, which interviewed him Saturday.

An adviser at the Higher Education Ministry, Molvi Abdul Jabbar, said universities were ready to readmit female students as soon as Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada gives the order to lift the ban. Akhundzada "ordered that the universities be closed, so they closed," he said. "When he says they are open, they will open the same day." His comments are a sign of diverging opinions within the Taliban about the decision-making process and Akhundzada's edicts. They also show the authority that Akhundzada wields over the Taliban. "It is only because of our obedience (to Akhundzada) that we are following his orders," Jabbar said, per the AP.

Nadim had cast the ban as a temporary measure while solutions were found to fix issues around gender segregation, course material, and dress codes. He said universities would reopen for women once they were resolved, per the AP. The Taliban made similar promises about high school access for girls, saying classes would resume for them once "technical issues" around uniforms and transport were sorted out, but girls are still shut out of classrooms. "Everything is ready in advance, whether it's school or university studies," Jabbar said. "It may be that the (start) times are different, boys in the morning and in the afternoon there will be girls. Or there will be girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon." Afghanistan is the only country in the world that outlaws female education.

(More Afghanistan stories.)

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