The head of a private institution in Kabul, Professor Ismail Mashal, said he had had enough of the limitations women in Afghanistan must endure.
He is thin, well-dressed, and a blend of raw emotion and defiance. “They should do this daily even if they are not permitted in. The least they can do to demonstrate their masculinity, “He says, fighting back the tears.
“This is agony, not me acting emotionally. The rights of Afghan women and girls must be defended by men.” The Taliban leadership declared in December that until further notice, female students at universities would not be permitted to return.
They said that by doing this, they would be able to develop a learning environment for Muslims that adhered to Sharia law, including curricular modifications.
Prof. Mashal went viral on social media shortly after the ban was issued and tore up his academic transcripts live on television, declaring that there was no use in getting an education in today’s Afghanistan. Prof. Mashal states, “The only weapon I have is my pen; I won’t remain silent now, even if they kill me or tear me to bits.”
“I am aware of the danger in what I’m doing. I say farewell to my mother and wife every morning and warn them that I might not be back. However, I am prepared to give my life if it means preserving the future of my two children and the 20 million Afghan women and girls.”
There were 450 female students at Prof. Mashal’s university, and they studied journalism, engineering, economics, and computer science. These degrees should not be taught to women, according to the education minister of the Taliban, because they are incompatible with Afghan tradition and Islam.
Prof. Mashal claims that instead of entirely closing down his college, he could have kept it open for male students alone. “Either everyone has access to education, or nobody does. I was in a lot of anguish the day I shut the doors to my institution.
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“These people are tampering with our girls’ future. When I think they’ll be able to go back, my students ask me when they can phone me. “For them, I have no responses. My 12-year-old daughter will not be able to attend high school next year. Therefore, I have no answers for her. She keeps asking me what crime it is that she has done.”
He has gotten numerous threats ever since he appeared on TV. Despite this, Prof. Mashal is featured in regional media nearly every day.
He is hoping that his lobbying would spark a national movement. But how likely will more guys follow him in this highly conservative society?
Many disagree with the Taliban government’s restriction on girls attending school, but the majority have remained silent. Afghan women have persisted in taking to the streets around the nation to protest the decrees and demand their rights.
Male students and professors have started risking their lives by speaking out recently, either by refusing to take their final examinations or resigning from their posts, even though Afghan women have tended to lead the protests.
Prof. Mashal claims he is baffled by the Taliban’s emphasis on limiting women’s rights since they assumed control of the nation. “Give these poor women some space. It suffices. There are many more important problems that need to be resolved. This nation is like a jungle because there is no law and order.”
Shabnam, one of his pupils, says she will never forget the day armed Taliban fighters showed up at their school and informed them that it would be the final day they could attend classes. The Taliban claim economics is a degree that is improper for women.
“We left our classes with heavy hearts because we were terrified, not knowing when or if we would ever return. I haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep since. My three sisters and numerous female cousins are all in the same circumstance. We experience this as being confined or imprisoned. In Afghanistan, women are not welcome.”
Another student, Shabana, who was in her first semester of journalism—another degree that the Taliban disapproved of—says she is finding it challenging to handle the changes that have occurred in the lives of women and girls over the past 1.5 years.
“My heart is broken. It seems like my ambition of becoming a skilled reporter and announcer has come to an end. We won’t be returning to our universities for as long as I live in this country, in my opinion.
“We adopted a new wardrobe. The classrooms were divided. We followed the instructions exactly. But it was still insufficient. We were worried that they might harm us, and they did.
“For my sister and I, the situation feels extremely hopeless. The fact that we are confined to our home makes everything seem gloomy and gloomy.” Shabana was distressed, but she applauded Prof. Mashal for making a stand.
“The ladies and girls in my country are going through a lonely moment. Men haven’t spoken up in great numbers. We are concerned for his safety yet incredibly appreciative of his help.”
The 37-year-old former journalist claims he regularly communicates with his female students, devastated by these choices, and he is concerned for their mental well-being.