The Taliban seems to be adopting a bizarre version of “safe space” rhetoric from Western universities. Chancellor Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat tweeted this week that women would be barred from campus until a “safe Islamic environment” can be created for their education. Notably, as this picture shows, men and women once studied together in the 1940s and 1950s. However, the Taliban banned women from going to school in their prior government in the 1990s.
On Monday, Ghairat tweeted: “Folks! I give you my words as the chancellor of Kabul University: as long as real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work. Islam first.”
Ghairat later lashed out at the New York Times for reporting this as a ban on Tuesday: “I haven’t said that we will never allow women to attend universities or go to work, I meant that until we create an Islamic environment, women will have to stay at home. We work hard to creat safe Islamic environment soon,.”
Presumably, the safe spaces will protect women from harmful ideas and practices as well as intermixing with men on campuses.
The New York Times noted that Ghairat is a 34-year-old hardcore Taliban believer who once referred to the country’s schools as “centers for prostitution.”
The imposition of extreme Islamic restrictions on women in Afghanistan has been horrific to watch. An entire generation of women now face erasure from society. Even though the Taliban has promised to be more moderate in their policies, a moderate Taliban policy still embodies extremely sexist and authoritarian doctrines, particularly for women.
Putting aside the denial of human rights, the Taliban is showing again the sheer lunacy of their movement. In a country that is struggling to keep essential services flowing, they are pushing half of the population away from educational and professional opportunities that could help their country transcend these worsening conditions.