Women’s right to education is being restricted by the Taliban. We can’t afford for the world to be silent.
The Taliban shockingly announced this week that they would forbid women from enrolling in higher education or holding teaching positions in Afghanistan. It is a decision that, more than any other single policy choice I can recall, has done more in a single day to institutionalize discrimination against women and girls and to reverse progress toward their empowerment.
Girls are not permitted to attend secondary schools since the Taliban retook power. They are currently barred from attending primary schools. Numerous female government employees have been instructed to remain at home. Other recent regulations prohibit women from traveling alone, visiting mosques, or enrolling in religious institutions. Girls and women were prohibited from attending parks and other public spaces last month.
In the false belief that these restrictions are only transitory, the rest of the world can no longer remain silent. It is time to defeat the Taliban, and the Muslim countries of the globe that respect Islamic law and consider women’s and girls’ education to be fundamental to Islamic teaching are best positioned to lead the charge. The solution to reclaiming women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan lies with Muslim nations.
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Since the Taliban’s ban on universities two days ago, we have already heard some positive voices. As an intermediary between the Taliban and the west, Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs promptly denounced the deeds, expressing “concern and sadness,” and urging Afghanistan to lift the embargo. The Saudi foreign ministry asked for the government to reconsider the choice and expressed “surprise” and “regret.” According to the statement, it was “contrary to granting Afghan women their full legitimate rights, chief of which is the right to education, which supports Afghanistan’s security, stability, growth, and prosperity.”
An official UAE statement said the decision not only “violates fundamental rights” but also “the teachings of Islam” and that it “must be remedied immediately” after the UAE representative to the UN described the action as an attempt to obtain nothing less than “the erasing of women from public life.”
And it is these demands that the rule of Islamic law be followed that can bring about a change in policy. Together with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is in a position to use its influence to ask Afghanistan’s de facto government to stop violating women’s rights.
Because religious teaching respects females’ right to education, there can be agreement on this topic. The first word in the Qur’an is “iqra,” which is Arabic for “to read.” Additionally, the majority of the Muslim world adheres to traditional Islamic teaching that encourages girls’ education. Indeed, according to Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74, one of the six canonical teachings of Sunni Islam, “the seeking of knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim,” emphasizing the strong dedication to learning shared by both men and women throughout the Arab world.
In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world, women’s university enrollment has climbed from 2% in 1970 to 39% in 2018, thanks to the nation’s strong commitment to educating all girls. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has a higher female enrollment rate than Mexico, China, Brazil, and India with regard to women of college age. Except for Afghanistan, which is governed by the Taliban, every Muslim nation has made a public commitment to the UN’s fourth sustainable development goal, which states that by 2030, every child should have access to “inclusive and equitable quality education.”
When one considers that Afghanistan itself has seen lengthy eras where females’ education flourished, the case for overturning the various limitations becomes even stronger and more urgent. 50% of the students and 60% of the faculty at Kabul University were women before to the Taliban’s takeover in 1996. Afghan women made up 70% of the nation’s schoolteachers, 50% of the 130,000 public servants in Kabul, and 40% of the country’s physicians. The number of Afghan females enrolling in school climbed from 100,000 in 2000 to more than 3.5 million as of a year ago, and female literacy had more than doubled.
Repression will ultimately fail. Millions of Afghan girls who learnt to read, write, and think for themselves prior to 2021 cannot be re-educated. You cannot continue to oppress girls and women who have experienced freedom. Because of this, the world community will have a lot of public support as it addresses one of the worst and most egregious injustices of our day.
We are aware that the several prohibitions were decided upon by Kandahar-based Taliban spiritual commander Haibatullah Akhundzada after his adherents pressed on them during a recent meeting of Taliban officials and law enforcement officials. The actual obstacle to change is him. The world must now beg him, led by our Muslim allies, to remember the Islamic writings that support universal education. We shall finally secure the human rights of Afghan women and girls by exerting all appropriate pressure through the IOC and the GCC with the support of the global women’s movement. This is a battle that must be won. It must be fought for the sake of all girls and women worldwide.