Devastation for Afghan female students who lost their chance to go to school.
The 21-year-old student had worked hard for weeks to prepare for the last exams of her first year of college. She was almost done and only had two tests left when she heard the news: the Taliban government in Afghanistan was stopping all women from going to college.
“I kept studying for the test and didn’t stop,” she told . “I went to college anyway in the morning.”
But it didn’t help. When she got to her campus in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, she saw armed Taliban guards at the gates, telling any female student who tried to enter to go away.
She said, “It was a terrible scene.” “Most of the girls, including me, were crying and begging them to let us in… How would you feel if you lost all your rights and couldn’t do anything about it?
The Taliban’s decision on Tuesday was just the latest step in their brutal crackdown on Afghan women’s freedoms since they took over the country in August 2021.
The Taliban has said many times that it would protect the rights of girls and women, but what it has actually done is the opposite. It has taken away the freedoms that girls and women have fought hard for over the past 20 years.
Some of the most shocking rules have been about education. In March, girls were not allowed to go back to secondary schools. Many students and their families were very upset by the move. They told CNN that their hopes of becoming doctors, teachers, or engineers were now gone.
In a televised news conference on Thursday, the Taliban’s minister of higher education said that women were not allowed in universities because they did not follow Islamic dress rules and other “Islamic values.” She gave the example of female students who traveled without a male guardian as an example.
He also said that the interaction between male and female students was taken into account, but that it was “not allowed in Sharia law.”
Thursday, a lot of people, including students and women activists, gathered near Kabul University to protest the decision. A protest organizer who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons said that the Taliban arrested several protesters but later let them go.
Women were seen marching and chanting “Either everyone or no one” on video from the scene.
CNN has asked the Taliban what they have to say about it.
The loss of her education was a bigger shock to the 21-year-old student than the bomb attacks and violence she had seen before.
“I’ve always thought that if we learned more, we could get over our sadness and fear,” she said. “This time, though, is different. It’s just not right and hard to believe.”
The world acts
People all over the world were angry and saddened by the news, and many world leaders and important Afghan figures asked the Taliban to change its mind.
In a tweet, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who left Kabul when the Taliban took over, said that the group was not a legitimate government and was holding “the whole population hostage.”
“The current problem with women’s education and work in the country is very serious, sad, and the most obvious and cruel example of gender apartheid in the 21st century,” Ghani wrote. “I have said many times that if one girl learns to read and write, she changes the lives of five generations to come, and if she doesn’t, she destroys the lives of five generations to come.”
He called the people in Afghanistan who were against what the Taliban had done “pioneers.”
Hamid Karzai, another former Afghan president, also said that he was “deeply sorry” about the suspension. He wrote that the country’s “development, population, and ability to take care of itself depend on the education and training of every boy and girl in this land.”
Other foreign leaders and officials, like the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, and the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karen Decker, all said similar things.
Members of the Group of Seven (G7) said in a statement Thursday that they “strongly condemned” the decision. They also said that the Taliban’s policies toward women are “extremely disturbing.”
Pakistan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia all had foreign ministries that said they didn’t agree with the decision.
In a statement, the UN mission in Afghanistan said, “If half of the population can’t contribute to society and the economy in a meaningful way, it will be terrible for the whole country.”
“Education is a basic right of every person,” it said. “If women and girls aren’t allowed to go to high school or college, it’s not only a violation of their rights, but it also hurts Afghan society as a whole because women and girls have a lot to offer. It keeps Afghanistan from having a future.”
Students left in limbo
Students in Afghanistan who are women say they don’t know what will happen to their education or their futures.
The Kabul student said, “I still have hope that things will get back to normal, but I don’t know how long it will take.” “Right now, a lot of girls, including me, are just wondering what will happen next and how we can get out of this situation.”
“I’m not quitting,” she said, but she might think about going “somewhere else” if Afghanistan kept making it hard for women to go to school.
Maryam is another young woman who knows firsthand how dangerous it can be for a woman to go to school. When she was in high school, she was near Kabul University when it was attacked. She remembers being evacuated “while bullets were flying over our heads.”
Then, in September, she barely made it through a suicide attack at the Kaaj education center in Kabul, which killed at least 25 people, most of whom were likely young women. The attack made people angry and scared, and afterward, dozens of women took to the streets of Kabul to protest.
Maryam, who is only being called by one name for her safety, just missed the blast. When she ran back into her classroom, her friends’ bodies were all over the place.
Each time she came close to dying made her even more determined to follow her dreams and the dreams of her best friends who had died before her eyes.
Even though she was accepted into a bachelor’s program a few weeks after the September bombing, she decided to put her college plans on hold for a year and go back to rebuild the destroyed education center from scratch. She said that she wanted to encourage other girls to keep going to school.
Now, those hopes have been crushed by what was said on Tuesday.
“I am just lost. She told CNN, “I don’t know what to do or say.” “Ever since last night, I’ve been thinking about all of my friends who died in the Kaaj attack. Why did they give up their lives?
“We have made a lot of sacrifices to get an education. It’s the only way for us to have a better future.”