Educators struggle to adapt as Taliban say new policy based on Islamic law

Photo shows a woman looking at secondhand household items for sale at a market in the northwest neighborhood of Khair Khana in Kabul. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2021

Educators struggle to adapt as Taliban say new policy based on Islamic law

  • The Taliban announced their all-male interim setup last week after retaking Kabul in a bloodless siege on Aug. 15

KABUL: The Taliban said on Monday their latest order making head coverings mandatory and for classrooms to be gender-segregated was to safeguard women from “unnecessary harassment” and ensure their “mental well-being.”
This came a day after the Taliban introduced its new education policy based on Islamic law.
The move, however, has prompted outrage from rights groups, elicited mixed reactions from women students while educators said they were struggling to adapt.
On Sunday, the interim government’s newly installed Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani told a news conference that women in Afghanistan could continue to study in universities, including at post-graduate levels, provided they adhered to a compulsory Islamic dress code.
“We will not allow coeducation,” he said, adding that hijabs or headscarves were a must as per the new policy.
Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi reiterated the stance on Monday, saying that the decision was based on the Islamic Emirate’s new policies and “no group could oppose” it.
“Islamic law has commanded that women should wear the hijab and that their classes should be separate,” he told Arab News.
“Educating girls in separate classes will provide mental well-being. From now on, no one can cause them unnecessary harassment,” he said.
The Taliban announced their all-male interim setup last week after retaking Kabul in a bloodless siege on Aug. 15. Since then, the group’s rise to power has stoked fears that their new government will not be different from the first time in power in the late 1990s when girls and women were barred from education and work, among other harsh policies.
After ruling Afghanistan for five years, the Taliban were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001, ushering in a new era for the war-battered country where women students did not have to abide by a dress code and could study alongside men.
Still, most women students opted to wear hijabs in keeping with their religious and personal choices, while boys and girls were taught separately in elementary and high schools before the Taliban came to power.
Haqqani acknowledged the shift in policy in his address but said that the Taliban did not want to turn the clock back 20 years. “We will start building on what exists today,” he said.
Women students, however, said that the latest directive could threaten their hard-won rights and overshadow freedom.
“Imagine, in the 21st century, instead of thinking about quality education we go back to the ’90s. I think it’s toward the rear. We’re actually wasting 20 years of achievements,” Wahida Jabbari, a law student at Fanoos University in Kabul, told Arab News.
Jabbari’s collegemate Vida Darvaish, a journalism student, implored the Taliban “to make progress instead of repeating our historical mistakes.”
“Making hijab compulsory in the classroom is a clear violation of women’s freedom. It should not be forgotten that today’s generation is not the generation of the 1990s,” she told Arab News.
Other students, however, welcomed the policies introduced by Afghanistan’s new rulers.


Spokesman says initiative will ensure women’s safety, mental wellbeing, but move draws mixed responses from Afghan students, university officials and rights group.

On Saturday, a group mainly comprised of women students held protests in Kabul to support the rules on dress and separate classrooms.
“Hijab is actually a protector for women. Having a hijab while learning is never a bad thing. It is the decision of the Islamic Emirate to bring true Islam back to Afghanistan,” Aziza Iftekhar, a Sharia law student at Al-Azhar University in Kabul, told Arab News.
She added that separate classes would “help calm minds” and ensure “psychological security.”
“We need peace of mind while studying. Women’s hijab and taking classes in separate classes will bring us psychological security, and our sisters will be safe,” Iftekhar said.
While laying out the new education policy, Haqqani said that the subjects being taught would also be reviewed, with women teachers required for female students “wherever possible.”
Where no women teachers were available, “special measures” would have to be adopted to ensure separation.
Educators, however, lamented the move, saying that the Taliban’s decision to separate classes had led to a “logistical and financial nightmare” because universities did not have the resources to provide separate classes.
“This decision has been a big headache for us because, in some classes, we have only one girl studying, but if we create a separate class for them, we will actually incur additional costs,” Ruhollah Wahab, head of the journalism department at Fanoos University, told Arab News.
He said that the initiative would “pose many challenges” for educational institutes. “Many private universities are not able to hire female professors because it creates organizational inflation and makes it difficult for the university to pay their lecturers.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban has maintained that their attitude, particularly toward women, had shifted in the past two decades.
Still, in recent days, the group’s officials have sent out mixed signals, while several members have used violence against women protesters demanding equal rights at small-scale demonstrations in the country.
While the Taliban have not officially ruled out women’s participation in their government, in a recent interview with popular TV channel TOLO News, Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said that “it’s not necessary that women be in the cabinet,” and should, instead, “give birth and raise children.”
Afghanistan had made massive progress in improving its literacy rates, particularly for girls and women, in the 17 years after Taliban control.
According to a recent report by the United Nation’s education branch, UNESCO, the number of girls in primary school had increased from “almost zero to 2.5 million” during that period, while the female literacy rate had nearly doubled in a decade to 30 percent.
Human rights groups, however, said that the Taliban’s latest policies “will make it much harder for women to study.”
“It will push many women out of higher education, and will reduce the quality of education for both women and men,” Heather Bar, associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, told Arab News.
“These restrictions violate the obligation any Afghan government has to ensure gender equality under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which Afghanistan ratified in 2003, and the world is taking note of that,” she said.

British Daesh ‘Beatle’ Aine Davis deported from Turkey; arrested at Luton airport

Updated 6 sec ago

British Daesh ‘Beatle’ Aine Davis deported from Turkey; arrested at Luton airport

  • British police arrested Davis after he was deported by Turkish authorities and landed at Luton airport near London late Wednesday
  • CPS prosecutor Kashif Malik: ‘It is plain from images that Davis sent to El-Wahabi, Davis’ wife, that he has been with fighters in Syria and was not in Syria for lawful purposes’

LONDON: A British man accused of being part of a Daesh kidnap-and-murder cell known as the “Beatles” was remanded in custody Thursday on terrorism charges after Turkey deported him to the UK.

Aine Davis, 38, was an alleged member of the Daesh cell that held dozens of foreign hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015 and was known to their captives as the “Beatles” because of their British accents.

Two of the four have already been brought to justice in the United States for the gruesome beheadings and killings of several American captives, while another of the quartet died in Syria.

British police arrested Davis after he was deported by Turkish authorities and landed at Luton airport near London late Wednesday.

He faces three counts under UK terrorism laws, two related to terrorism fundraising in 2014 and one related to possessing a firearm.

Appearing at a London magistrates’ court flanked by two suited police officers Thursday morning, Davis — sporting a short beard and grey T-shirt — spoke only to confirm his name and that he was of no fixed abode.

His lawyer confirmed he would not be entering a plea or seeking bail at this stage.

Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring said bail would in any case be refused partly due to Davis’ “propensity to travel on forged documents” and ordered him held in prison.

He referred the case to the crown court, which deals with serious criminal offenses, with a pre-trial hearing set for September 2 at the central criminal court, known as the Old Bailey.

Goldspring noted that if convicted, Davis will face “years, not months” in jail.

The four members of the “Beatles” are accused of abducting at least 27 journalists and relief workers from the United States, Britain, Europe, New Zealand, Russia and Japan.

They were allegedly involved in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

The accused cell members, who all grew up in west London, allegedly tortured and killed the four American victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.

Alexanda Kotey, a 38-year-old former British national extradited from the UK to the US in 2020 to face charges there, pleaded guilty to his role in the deaths last September and was sentenced to life in prison in April.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, another former British national also extradited to the US at the same time, was found guilty of all charges in April, and will be sentenced next week.

They were captured in January 2018 by a Kurdish militia in Syria and turned over to US forces in Iraq before being sent to Britain and then the US.

There they faced federal court charges of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.

The other “Beatles” executioner, Mohamed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.

Davis was arrested in Istanbul in 2015 by Turkish authorities on suspicion of being a member of Daesh, and was using a forged travel document, the magistrates’ court heard Thursday.

He was convicted in Turkey 18 months later, sentenced to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment, and released in July into an immigration detention center where he remained until he was deported this week.

In 2014, his wife Amal El-Wahabi became the first person in Britain to be convicted of funding Daesh after trying to send 20,000 euros — worth $25,000 at the time — to him in Syria.

She was jailed for 28 months and seven days following a trial in which Davis was described as a drug dealer before going to fight with Daesh in 2013.

“It’s believed that this (money) was to be collected by Mr. Davis or an associate,” CPS prosecutor Kashif Malik told the court Thursday, noting it had been raised in the UK “to support terrorism.”

He said Davis had sent messages and photos to his wife from Syria.

“It is plain from images that Davis sent to El-Wahabi that he has been with fighters in Syria and was not in Syria for lawful purposes,” he added. “On occasions he was in possession of a firearm.”

A 2014 search of the couple’s London property found speeches by Osama bin Laden and prominent Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, Malik said.

“We believe this was material left behind by Mr. Davis,” he added.

Delhi to enforce mask mandate again after spurt in COVID cases

Updated 55 min 3 sec ago

Delhi to enforce mask mandate again after spurt in COVID cases

  • People caught without masks in public in the Indian capital will have to pay a fine of $6

NEW DELHI: New Delhi will enforce a mask mandate again after COVID-19 infections rose in the past fortnight, a government order showed on Thursday, though a similar order in April failed to improve compliance.
People caught without masks in public in the Indian capital will have to pay a fine of 500 rupees ($6), the order dated Aug. 8 and shared with reporters on Thursday, said. Presently, mask-wearing is uncommon even in shopping malls and crowded markets.
New Delhi reported 2,146 new infections in the past 24 hours and eight deaths, the worst figures among Indian states and federal territories.
The country reported 16,299 new infections during the period, taking the cumulative total to 44.2 million, while deaths rose by 53 to 526,879. The actual numbers are believed to be multiple times higher.

Philippine leader threatens to fire officials in sugar mess

Updated 11 August 2022

Philippine leader threatens to fire officials in sugar mess

  • Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has temporarily taken the helm of the Department of Agriculture due to a looming food crisis
  • The president never approved or was aware of the resolution to import sugar, which was signed by an agriculture undersecretary and other officials

MANILA: The Philippine president has threatened to fire top agricultural officials if an investigation shows they improperly announced a decision to import sugar amid a shortage without his approval, his press secretary said Thursday.
It’s the stiffest punitive step newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could take against officials over an apparent irregularity early in his six-year term. He took office on June 30 after a landslide election victory and inherited daunting problems.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said a resolution authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar by the Sugar Regulatory Board, which Marcos Jr. heads, was posted on the website of the Sugar Regulatory Administration under the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.
Marcos Jr. has temporarily taken the helm of the Department of Agriculture due to a looming food crisis and skyrocketing commodity prices sparked in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Cruz-Angeles said the president never approved or was aware of the resolution to import sugar, which was signed by an agriculture undersecretary and other officials. The document was taken down from the website by Thursday.
“This resolution is illegal,” she told a news conference. “An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any acts that will cause the president to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found or if there is malice or negligence involved.”
“If such findings are made, then the only determination left will be how many heads are going to roll,” she said.
Officials dealing with sugar shortages and fast-rising prices, caused largely by the devastation of sugarcane fields, milling factories and refineries by a powerful typhoon in December, have opted to secure additional sugar imports to ease the crisis.
But Marcos Jr. rejected the proposal, saying it needed to be studied to protect consumers from rising prices while making sure “that we do not destroy the local industry,” Cruz-Angeles said.
Marcos Jr. also inherited a pandemic-battered economy, lingering coronavirus threats, deep poverty, decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies, law and order problems and political divisions inflamed by the recent elections.

Britain, Denmark contribute more money and weapons to Ukraine

Updated 11 August 2022

Britain, Denmark contribute more money and weapons to Ukraine

  • Britain to send more multiple-launch rocket systems and precision guided M31A1 missiles
  • Denmark will increase its financial aid to Ukraine by $114 million

COPENHAGEN: Britain and Denmark will provide more financial and military aid to Ukraine, they said on Thursday as European defense ministers met in Copenhagen to discuss long-term support for the country’s defense against Russia’s invasion.
Britain, which has already donated advanced weapons systems to Ukraine and given thousands of its troops military training, said it would send more multiple-launch rocket systems.
It would also donate a “significant number” of precision guided M31A1 missiles that can strike targets up to 80km away.
“This latest tranche of military support will enable the armed forces of Ukraine to continue to defend against Russian aggression and the indiscriminate use of long-range artillery,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.
“Our continued support sends a very clear message, Britain and the international community remain opposed to this illegal war and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, providing defensive military aid to Ukraine to help them defend against Putin’s invasion.”
Denmark will increase its financial aid to Ukraine by 110 million euros ($114 million), Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a conference in Copenhagen hosted by Ukraine, Denmark and Britain.
“This is a war on the values that Europe and the free world are built upon ... Today we reaffirm our commitment to support of Ukraine,” she said.
The new measures will take Denmark’s total aid to Ukraine since the start of the war to more than $417 million (3 billion Danish crowns).
Just over half of the financial aid announced on Thursday will be spent on weapons procurement and support of weapons production. The rest will be spent on supplies of Danish weapons and military equipment, as well as military training.
The announcements come after the government in Kyiv repeatedly pleaded with the West to send more weapons, including long-range artillery, as it tries to turn the tide on Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
Earlier this month, Ukraine said it had received another delivery of high-precision heavy weapons from Germany and the United States.
Moscow, which has accused the West of dragging out the conflict by giving Ukraine more arms, says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at safeguarding Russia’s security against NATO expansion.

Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group

Updated 11 August 2022

Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group

  • Regional analysts expect US Secretary of State to privately exert pressure to stop Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebel group

KIGALI: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he discussed with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “credible reports” that Rwanda continued to support the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blinken said Kagame and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi had agreed to engage in direct talks to address the fighting in eastern Congo.

The US senior diplomat is on a visit to Kigali less than a week after it emerged United Nations experts had found “solid evidence” Rwanda has been interfering militarily in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda’s government has disputed the UN findings.

The conflict was a focus of his meeting with Tshisekedi on Tuesday.

“My message to both President Tshisekedi and President Kagame this week has been the same: any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC endangers local communities and regional stability, and every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others,” Blinken said during a joint media event with his Rwandan counterpart.

“Both presidents have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other.”

Kagame and Tshisekedi met at a summit in Angola to de-escalate tensions from the rebel insurgency.

Rwanda has previously denied accusations by Congo that it supports the M23 and that it has sent troops into the country. The M23 has denied it receives Rwandan support.

A target of the M23 and Rwandan operations in Congo has been the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia which Rwanda accuses Congo of using as a proxy. Congo’s government has denied this.

Standing next to Blinken, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said Kigali backed peace in the region.

“We agreed on the need to eradicate all irregular armed groups operating in the eastern DRC including the FDLR and its factions,” Biruta said.

Biruta later told local media that Rwanda was not supporting the M23 rebel group.

Since May, M23 has waged its most sustained offensive in years, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of people. By July, it controlled a territory in Congo almost three times as large as it did in March, UN experts said.