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By Jay Deshmukh and Qubad Wali
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Tuesday banned university education for females nationwide, as the hardline Islamists continue to crush women’s right to education and freedom. world news
Despite promising a softer rule when they seized power last year, the Taliban have ratcheted up restrictions on all aspects of women’s lives, ignoring international outrage.
“You all are informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice,” said a letter issued to all government and private universities, signed by the Minister for Higher Education, Neda Mohammad Nadeem.
The spokesman for the ministry, Ziaullah Hashimi, who tweeted the letter, confirmed the order in a text message to AFP.
Washington condemned the decision “in the strongest terms.”
“The Taliban should expect that this decision, which is in contravention to the commitments they have made repeatedly and publicly to their own people, will carry concrete costs for them,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.
The ban on higher education comes less than three months after thousands of girls and women sat university entrance exams across the country, with many aspiring to choose teaching and medicine as future careers.
The universities are currently on winter break and due to reopen in March.
After the takeover of the country by the Taliban, universities were forced to implement new rules including gender segregated classrooms and entrances, while women were only permitted to be taught by women professors or old men.
Most teenage girls across the country have already been banned from secondary school education, severely limiting university intake.
Journalism student Madina, who wanted only her first name published, struggled to comprehend the weight of Tuesday’s order.
“I have nothing to say. Not only me but all my friends have no words to express our feelings,” the 18-year-old told AFP in Kabul.
“Everyone is thinking about the unknown future ahead of them. They buried our dreams.”
The country was returning to “dark days”, added medicine student Rhea in the capital, who asked that her name be changed.
“When we were hoping to make progress, they are removing us from the society,” the 26-year-old said.
A fundamental human right
The United Nations is “deeply concerned” by the order, said Ramiz Alakbarov, UN chief’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
“Education is a fundamental human right. A door closed to women’s education is a door closed to the future of Afghanistan,” he tweeted.
The Taliban adheres to an austere version of Islam, with the movement’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of Afghan clerics against modern education, especially for girls and women.
But they are at odds with many officials in Kabul and among their rank and file who had hoped girls would be allowed to continue learning following the takeover.
“There are serious differences in the Taliban ranks on girls’ education and the latest decision will increase these differences,” a Taliban commander based in northwest Pakistan told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In a cruel U-turn, the Taliban in March blocked girls from returning to secondary schools on the morning they were supposed to reopen.
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Several Taliban officials say the secondary education ban is only temporary, but they have also wheeled out a litany of excuses for the closure — from a lack of funds to time needed to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines.
Since the ban, many teenage girls have been married off early — often to much older men of their father’s choice.
Several families interviewed by AFP last month said that coupled with economic pressure the school ban meant that securing their daughters’ future through marriage was better than them sitting idle at home.
Women have also been pushed out of many government jobs — or are being paid a slashed salary to stay at home. They are also barred from travelling without a male relative, and must cover up outside of the home, ideally with a burqa.
In November they were also prohibited from going to parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths.
The international community has made the right to education for all women a sticking point in negotiations over aid and recognition of the Taliban regime.
“The international community has not and will not forget Afghan women and girls,” the UN Security Council said in a statement in September.
In the 20 years between the Taliban’s two reigns, girls were allowed to go to school and women were able to seek employment in all sectors, though the country remained socially conservative.
The authorities have also returned to public floggings and executions of men and women in recent weeks as they implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
An economic crisis in Afghanistan has only worsened since the Taliban returned to power following the hasty withdrawal of US-led foreign forces last August.
Washington froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s assets held in the United States while billions in foreign aid that helped prop up the country has vastly reduced.
© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.
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Notes from APS Radio News
The “Cost of War”, a project affiliated with Brown University, has itemized the costs associated with the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan:
Over 801,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars due to direct war violence, and several times as many due to the reverberating effects of war
Over 335,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting
37 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons
The US federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $6.4 trillion
The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries
The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the US and abroad.
In addition, the website makes mention of this fact: Since the commencement of these wars, there have been 30,177 suicides of veterans of these wars.
According to a number of economists, the expenditure of vast sums of money—trillions of dollars—on these wars has reduced substantially the purchasing power of the dollar.
Observers have called inflation a “hidden tax”.
During the 1990’s the Clinton administration gave tacit if not explicit support to the Taliban government that took over the country during that time after over a decade of US and Soviet interventions in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
During the late 1970’s then National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski oversaw surrpetitious intervention, which, in its turn, caused the secular government in Afghanistan to petition the Soviet Union to intervene.
According to the author Jean-Charles Brisard, in the summer of 2001, representatives of the Bush Administration and those of Unocal held a series of meetings with representatives of the Taliban government, for the purpose of obtaining rights of way for the emplacement & construction of a massive pipeline.
When the negotiations came to grief, Bush representatives threatened the Taliban with attacks against the country, Mr. Brisard described in his book, “Forbidden Truth”.
Following the commencement of Soviet and US intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, the country devloved into spheres of influnece dominated by various warlords.
The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan; they form a substantial precentage of the population on both sides of Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.
The Taliban are comprised of members of the Pashtuns, which are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the the 1990’s and beyond, Afghanistan had governments that were deemed more secular.
During that time women attended schools and were more likely to wear Western type clothing.
As a result of actions and policies implemented National Security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, during the Carter administration, the government in Afghanistan in the late 1970’s requested Soviet assistance.
After the Soviet armed forces had entered Afghanistan, the CIA funded and armed groups like the Mujahideen and other militant Islamists.