After Women's Studies Move, Taliban Tells World to Butt Out

Education minister defends decision to bar females from universities
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2022 4:20 PM CST
After Women's Studies Move, Taliban Tells World to Butt Out
Afghan female university students stop by as Taliban security personnel stand next to the gate of Kabul University in Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.   (AP Photo/Siddiqullah Khan)

The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to bar women from universities—a decree that had triggered a global backlash. Discussing the matter for the first time in public, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam, per the AP. He said the ban was in place until further notice. In an interview with Afghan television, Nadim pushed back against the widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar.

Nadim said that foreigners should stop interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs. A former provincial governor, police chief, and military commander, Nadim was appointed minister in October by the supreme Taliban leader and previously pledged to stamp out secular schooling. Nadim opposes female education, saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values. Other reasons he gave for the university ban were women's failure to observe a dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses. “We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn’t and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony," he said.

"Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn't match Afghan culture," he added. "Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor." He added that work was underway to fix these issues and universities would reopen for women once they were resolved. 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 remain shut out of classrooms.

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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. At the same time Afghan society, while largely traditional, has increasingly embraced the education of girls and women over the past two decades.

(More Taliban stories.)

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