Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the new Taliban Chancellor of Kabul University, banned women from attending the school indefinitely on Monday. The chancellor’s policy, which severely restricts women in Afghanistan from the right to an education, answered many Afghans fears following the Taliban takeover.
“I give you my words as chancellor of Kabul University,” Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat wrote in a Tweet on Monday. “As long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work. Islam first.” Oddly, Chancellor Ghairat’s Twitter account has since been deleted.
The new chancellor’s statements go against what Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CNN earlier this month, when he said that women would still be allowed to study. He even boasted that the new Taliban regime would have, “girls in universities continuing their education both in private and government-funded universities.”
However, many Afghan women remained skeptical, remembering how they were barred from attending school when the Taliban held power over 20 years ago. As well as the female students, female staff members and professors have also been banned from teaching.
“In this holy place, there was nothing un-Islamic,” an anonymous female lecturer told The New York Times. “Presidents, teachers, engineers and even mullahs are trained here and gifted to society. “Kabul University is the home to the nation of Afghanistan.”
Despite women previously serving in Afghanistan’s Parliament, the new government’s cabinet is entirely male, and has temporarily prohibited women from going to work.
Back in August, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a press conference, where few women were allowed to attend, that women would be guaranteed rights “within the limits of Islam,” but that “women can work in all industries and offices including the police and attorney general’s office.”
Before closing the schools and offices to women, the new Taliban regime said that it was “committed to the rights of women,” but bound “within our framework of sharia.”
Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat replaced the previous Chancellor of Kabul University, and is described as a “34-year-old devotee of the movement who has referred to the country’s schools as ‘centers for prostitution.'”
Earlier this month, pro-Taliban women marched in the street with signs that read, “we don’t want co-education.”
According to The New York Times, the $100 million American University in Afghanistan that the U.S. previously provided for has since been abandoned and taken over by the Taliban. Tens of thousands of university students have been stuck at home, either barred from attending school or just afraid to go.
“There is no hope, the entire higher education system is collapsing,” said Hamid Obaidi, former spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education and a lecturer at Kabul University’s journalism school. “Everything was ruined.”
Some professors and lecturers are attempting to flee the country in fear of retaliation from the new government. Sharia purists, many without any educational background, are being appointed by the Taliban in their stead.
Responding to complaints from the teachers union of Afghanistan, Ghairat said that, “I haven’t even started the job yet,” asking “How do they know if I am qualified or not?”
According to the letter sent to the new government, professors claim that Ghairat had extremist views and prior problems with female students and staffers.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who said that girls could previously continue to attend school, called Ghairat’s decision “his own personal view,” but made no overtures to overturn his ban.
Mujahid simply waved off the issue, saying that he government was working toward a new system and “an environment where female students are protected.”
Many private universities are still accepting female students for segregated classes, but with so few female lecturers allowed to teach, many students will not have any classes to attend. It is estimated that over half of the professors and educators in Afghanistan have either been forced to leave their jobs or have fled the country.