‘Caught’ in a fake women’s education meeting, Afghan women tear down a banner

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They considered going to a meeting with the Taliban to discuss women’s right to education, but quickly became disillusioned. About 400 women, many of them of high school or university age, went to a gymnasium in the city of Bamiyan on April 1, but actually found themselves at a pro-Taliban meeting with no word on education. Some didn’t hesitate to show their anger by tearing down a banner and asking to be heard.

Two of our observers were among the women who attended this meeting. According to them, friends had told them that this would be an opportunity to discuss women’s right to education in the presence of the Taliban governor of Bamiyan province. But when they arrived at the scene of the crime, they saw a large banner that read: “Bamiyans support the Taliban”. According to our observers, many women felt trapped.

This event comes two weeks after the Taliban’s abrupt reversal of girls’ access to secondary schools: middle and high schools had barely reopened on March 23 after six months of closure when authorities announced on the same day the suspension of the opening of facilities the Drawing up a plan “in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture”.

In Bamiyan, as in the rest of Afghanistan, girls over the age of 13 are therefore not allowed to go to school. For the time being, however, the presence of girls in separate departments remains tolerated at the universities. Afghan women have repeatedly protested against the Taliban since returning to power in August 2021.

>> READ ALSO ABOUT THE OBSERVERS: Demonstration in Kabul suppressed by Taliban: “Even if you behead us, we will fight back”

“No school for women, no support from us”

Adeleh (pseudonym) is a student at Bamiyan University.

We were told it would be a meeting on women’s right to education. Many of us had decided to leave, most of the students or girls were high school age.

But when I arrived, men and women were chanting slogans that read, “We support the Taliban.” When women asked why there was no discussion about women’s education, the Taliban told them to shut up and not interrupt the meeting. Women left the room in protest, but many of them stayed because they thought maybe the issue of education would come up… but there was nothing.

Instead, Taliban officials gave speeches from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. They said nothing about the education of women. Eventually, after some of them protested, they allowed a woman to speak on behalf of the 400 or 500 women who were there. She said, “There will be no support from Afghan women for the Taliban until they give us access to education.” When she continued to speak about our right to education, all the Taliban representatives just walked out.

Women got angry and took down the banner that read “Bamiyans support the Taliban”. The other women in the stadium applauded them.

It was a good lesson for the Taliban: they will know that trying to trap Afghan women again is not worth trying. Perhaps it will teach them that what most Afghan women say and want is not the same as what their dolls in black burqas say.

None of the women involved in the clash were arrested the same day, but eleven participants were arrested on April 7.

Seifollah Mohammadi, head of the Taliban’s cultural office in Bamiyan, told DW’s Persian service: “After the meeting, officials rushed back to work. Afterwards there was apparently a dispute between those present and a banner was taken down.”

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