Girls blatantly ‘omitted’ in Taliban’s university entrance exam plans

Girls in Kapisa province, July, 2021. File photo.

In a 22-minute interview with Taliban-run national television, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the Taliban’s head of the university entrance examination department, failed to mention anything about female students being allowed to sit the exam in the future.

This comes despite ongoing criticism leveled at the Taliban over severe restrictions on women and girls across the country, and just two days after the exam results for this year were announced. Tens of thousands of male students were allowed to take the exam, which was held over three rounds from July 20, but not a single female took part.

During the interview, Haqqani gave a detailed outline of plans for the next academic year but failed to mention anything about women and girls’ education.

“For the future, we plan to negotiate with the elders, to have a representative in each zone, to make it easier for the young people and applicants,” he said.

According to him, most of the participants of this year’s entrance exam have been enrolled in universities. It appears that the Taliban has allocated the quota for girls to boys.

“What is worrying for us is the general silence of the Afghan people, the international community and the supporters of women’s rights and human rights, who have not taken any practical steps to secure the rights of Afghan women and girls and secure their freedoms,” said Maryam Maarouf Arwin, a women’s rights activist.

Meanwhile, a number of girls who had hoped to write the exam or return to university this year say they are disappointed by the Taliban’s actions and the fact that girls were not able to sit this year’s exam was a “disaster”.

“In Afghanistan, this is the first time that girls are experiencing this situation. They cannot get their most basic right, which is education, to study. I myself was first in my grades. I studied to participate in the entrance exam, but this year’s entrance examination is disastrous without the presence of girls,” said Shabnam Ahmadi, a student.

The latest development around the entrance examination comes amid a visit by a delegation of religious scholars from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The delegation is in Kabul and has held numerous meetings with different Taliban officials. One of the key topics discussed has been the issue of girls’ education in the country.