Afghan woman wins national university exam but unsure of future under Taliban

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An Afghan woman who scored the highest score on the country’s national university entrance exam this month said she plans to complete her education and then find a job, but she is not sure that this is possible under the Taliban.

Salgai Baran, 19, whose exam results were the best out of 180,000 students, told VOA last week that she wanted to complete her higher education in Afghanistan.

“I will stay if I can continue my studies. If circumstances do not allow me to continue my studies and achieve my goals, I would like to go abroad, ”said Baran.

An Afghan woman speaks as she attends a course in the MA in Gender and Women Studies program at Kabul University, Afghanistan, October 19, 2015.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the acting minister of higher education appointed by the Taliban, said on Sunday that the group allowed women to attend universities, but that it prohibited mixed classes and male teachers from teaching female classes. .

“The Afghan people will safely pursue their higher education in the light of Sharia law without being in a mixed gender environment,” Haqqani said, according to Agence France-Presse.

On Tuesday, the Taliban urged women to stay at home, calling it a “temporary” measure “to protect women”, until the group comes up with what it calls “a new procedure.”

Baran expressed uncertainty about his ability to work under the Taliban. “My plan was to serve my country and my people, but I don’t know if the circumstances would allow me to work. “

Despite assurances from the Taliban that they have no problem with women’s education and work, women fear the militant group will once again impose their strict interpretation of Sharia law, barring women from accessing schools and workplaces.

In this photo taken on September 4, 2019, Afghan students attend a class at Code to Inspire School in Herat.

In this photo taken on September 4, 2019, Afghan students attend a class at Code to Inspire School in Herat.

Under the Taliban in the 1990s, women were deprived of their basic rights to education and employment. The group also forced women to cover themselves from head to toe and prevented women from leaving their homes without a male companion.

Heather Barr, senior researcher on women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch, told VOA that statements the Taliban have made to convince the world that the group believes in women’s rights “do not convince anyone because everyone knows what his record is. Women’s rights.”

“Terrible moment”

“This is a terrible time for the girls,” Barr said, adding that Afghan women “feel their future has been taken away from them overnight.”

Before the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, women made up about one-third (100,000) of university students. About 3.5 million girls, out of about 9 million students, attended schools in Afghanistan.

About 30% of civil servant jobs and 28% of parliamentary seats were held by women.

“The Taliban have such a history of violence that if they say they are suggesting something, people think they have to do it immediately,” Barr said.

Shinkai Karokhil, a former member of Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, said the Taliban should clarify their position on women.

“It is frustrating,” said Karokhil, that the Taliban “has not yet come up with what the country’s education system will be.”

With uncertainty over women and their role under the Taliban, thousands of Afghans, mostly young and educated, have left the country.

She added that all Afghans, women and men, should have “the opportunity to receive an education.”

Karokhil said the brain drain would derail progress in Afghanistan. “It would certainly have negative effects on the earnings of the last two decades. “

She said, however, that the Afghan girls will continue their fight and that “the world should not forget them”.

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