The ban was announced on December 20 by minister of higher education Nida Mohammad Nadim, who has pledged to stamp out secular schooling and opposes female education saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values.
After severe backlash, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, Nadim came out in strong support for the ban
Here are the reasons provided by the Taliban for the ban:
- Female students were not following instructions, including a proper dress code. “They were dressing like they were going to a wedding. Those girls who were coming to universities from home were also not following instructions on hijab,” said Nadim.
- Universities provided a place for men and women to mix freely.
- Subjects were being taught that go against the principles of Islam. “Some science subjects are not suitable for women … engineering, agriculture and some other courses do not match the dignity and honour of female students and also Afghan culture,” said the minister.
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.
The authorities have also shut madrassas that were teaching only women students but were housed inside mosques.
On Saturday, the Taliban regime ordered all foreign and domestic non-governmental groups to suspend employing women or their operating license would be revoked.
The attempts at erasing women from public and educational life is part of the Taliban regime’s design to overhaul Afghanistan’s public education system.
What does the Taliban want to teach?
According to a report in The Diplomat, the Afghan newspaper Hasht-e-Subh recently obtained a copy of the Taliban’s proposed modifications to the country’s school curricula. The document sets the tone by stating that the “current curriculum was made under the Kabul puppet administration, and funded by Jewish and non-religious countries”.
Proposals made by Taliban to modify school curricula:
- Remove entire subjects from the curriculum that go against the principles of Islam.
- Textbooks will be stripped of all images of living things, depictions of little girls and people doing sports, as well as anatomy images in biology textbooks.
- No mention of democracy and human rights in a positive light.
- No encouragement of peace, women’s rights and education.
United Nationsis referred to as an “evil organization” in the document.
- No mention of music, television, parties, and celebrations including birthdays.
- No mention of non-Muslim figures such as scientists or inventors (
Thomas Edisonis highlighted as an example). Even Afghan historical and literary figures the Taliban disapprove of, such as celebrated poets and Shia national figures, will be erased from the curriculum.
- No mention of mines and their dangers.
- No mention of the radio (the document refers to it as “colonial media”).
- No mention of population management or elections.
- Ancient and revered Afghan cultural traditions, ranging from the Attan dance and
Nawruzto indigenous musical instruments and women’s colorful traditional dress are to be stripped from textbooks. Other traditions can be mentioned but only to explain why they are shameful; for instance, teachers should emphasise the “ugliness” of the giant Buddhasof Bamiyan, and celebrate the Taliban’s destruction of such idols.
- “Non-Islamic beliefs” like “love for all human beings” should be omitted.
Members of the Taliban’s revision committee have stated that the purpose of the curriculum is “to maintain and expand the ideological interests of the Taliban”.
In their own words, the Taliban committee recommends that the “seeds of hatred against Western countries should be planted in students’ minds”, said Lauryn Oates in The Diplomat.
The curriculum will focus on “propagating the Taliban’s narrative of history, focusing on the Islamic world and ignoring the non-Islamic world” and will prioritise propagating jihad, articulating justifications for the use of violence to advance the Taliban’s goals, and encouraging children to fight jihad.
Textbooks must explain the Shariah rules of killing in war, including the justified killing of other Muslims for certain goals, retaliation in kind, stoning, and amputations, and should explain that child marriage is acceptable with a father’s consent.
Poverty, natural disasters, and life challenges should be explained as “divine punishment”.
This is not the Taliban’s first go at running an education system. In its previous rule, the Taliban transformed the Afghan education system into a network of poorly managed madrassas. Secular subjects like science and history were removed, girls were shut out, mullahs replaced trained teachers, corporal punishment was part of schooling, and sexual abuse was rife. School became a place where children’s bodies and minds were at risk, said Oates.
(With inputs from agencies)