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Taliban must re-open schools for women and protect Hazara students in Afghanistan

On December 21, 2022, Taliban announced an indefinite ban on all Afghan women and girls prohibiting them from attending university in Afghanistan.

Taliban must re-open schools for women and protect Hazara students in Afghanistan
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona / Unsplash

This call comes after Taliban had previously banned Afghan women and girls from attending secondary schools, going to public parks, female baths and gyms, and traveling without a male guardian. Under Taliban’s rule, Hazara students, who are members of the Shia ethno-religious minority group historically persecuted by the Taliban, are at serious risks of bloody attacks and severe discrimination by the Taliban currently.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Afghan women and girls have lost almost all their fundamental human rights and freedoms including their right to education, work and peaceful assemblies. Female students who protested against the university ban in Kabul University, the country’s largest university, were arrested by the Taliban. Journalists who were covering the protest were also arrested. Taliban’s complete exclusion of Afghan women from public life and denying their human rights and freedoms can only be described as gender apartheid.

Students with ethno-religious backgrounds, especially the Hazara students who mainly belong to the Shia Muslim community of Afghanistan, have faced a chain of systematic terrorist attacks by the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) in the last years, as well as exclusion and discrimination by the Taliban more recently. In September, 2022, at least 53 Hazara students (46 girls), were killed and more than 110 wounded in a terrorist attack on Kaj education center in West Kabul, an area predominantly resided by Hazaras and known for bloody attacks. This incident in West Kabul took place after a number of other massive attacks on Hazara educational centers targeted on students from the same community in recent years.

Dozens of student protesters who stood against the continued killings of Hazaras students and the restrictions on women, in Herat and Bamiyan, were violently oppressed by the Taliban, and families of the victims of the Kaj attack were harassed in Kabul by the Taliban. Tens of Hazara students were also reportedly poisoned and expelled from Kabul university and dormitories by the Taliban, due to reasons of ‘disorder’ and ‘relation to protests against the killings of Hazaras.

Taliban’s inability and/or unwillingness to protect rights and lives of women and minorities in Afghanistan followed by their extreme right-violating policies, prove that Taliban have not changed and continue to follow the same strategies as in their first rule in 1990s.

Continued brutal directives by the Taliban are broadly violating all fundamental rights of Afghan women and effectively threatens Afghan women’s right to life and work, which are recognized and protected through Afghanistan’s commitment to international human rights conventions.

Women and girls in Afghanistan, like in any other human society, play crucial roles in the overall development of the country. Depriving women and denying their rights is not only breaking Taliban’s initial promises – to allow women and girls’ public participations including the right to work and study – but also further deteriorates the existing humanitarian and economic crisis across Afghanistan.

Condemning Taliban’s lack of accountability to protect rights of female students and Hazaras, we call on the Taliban administration to immediately re-open women and girls’ schools and universities, and take all necessary measures to protect Hazara students at risk across the country. Taliban must protect rights and freedoms of Afghan students recognized and defined in Afghanistan’s national and international human rights commitments.

We call on the international community to support the followings and to pressure Taliban to;

  1. Fully respect Afghan women’s and girls’ right to education and re-open all schools and universities for them across Afghanistan.
  2. Taliban must protect Hazara and other students at risk inside Afghanistan, and provide safe passage for students including women travelling abroad for study.
  3. Provide scholarship opportunities for female, Hazara and other students at risk in Afghanistan, to study abroad, and ensure smooth visa options for them to travel outside the country.
  4. Taliban must consider Afghanistan’s national and international commitments to human rights values and should protect civil and political rights of all groups such as women and minorities. Taliban must be held accountable for their violations of human rights of all kinds.
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The Communication team curates Global Student Forums' digital content and prepares publications. It is a small, dedicated team from around the world.