Universities in Afghanistan are prepared to readmit women as students, but the leader of the Taliban regime has the final word on what might happen, if it happens at all, said an education official on Saturday, August 12th.
The Taliban banned women from attending universities last December, triggering worldwide outrage. Shortly after returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban prohibited girls from attending school beyond the sixth grade. Afghanistan is the only country in the world that bans female education.
The Minister of Higher Education of Afghanistan, Nida Mohammed Nadim, stated at the time that the university-level ban was necessary to prevent gender mixing and because he believed some subjects violated Islamic principles.
He added that the ban, ordered by Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhunzada from the southern city of Kandahar, remained in effect until further notice.
An advisor from the Ministry of Higher Education, Molvi Abdul Jabbar, said that universities were prepared to readmit women as students as soon as Akhundzada orders the ban to be lifted. He refrained from specifying a date or whether it would indeed happen.
Akhundzada “ordered the closure of universities, so they closed,” he told The Associated Press. “When he says they should open, they will open the same day. All our leaders support (resuming girls’ education), even our ministers.”
Jabbar said that he last met with Akhundzada seven or eight years ago. They fought together against the Russians during the 10-year Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and Jabbar has been part of the Taliban for 27 years.
“We follow his orders out of obedience (to Akhundzada),” he pointed out.
Jabbar’s statements are another indication of the divergent opinions within the Taliban regarding the decision-making process and Akhundzada’s edicts, but the main spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, immediately rejected reports of divisions. They also reveal the authority that Akhundzada wields within the Taliban.
Minister Nadim had presented the ban as a temporary measure while solutions were found to address aspects related to gender segregation, course materials, and dress codes. He indicated that universities would reopen to women once these aspects were resolved.
The Taliban had made similar commitments regarding girls’ access to secondary school, saying it would resume once “technical aspects” related to uniforms and transportation were resolved, but girls remain excluded from classrooms.
Jabbar indicated that the education sector remained unchanged.
“Everything is ready in advance, whether for school or university studies. The start times could be different: boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon, or girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon.”
Jabbar made these statements just a few days before the second anniversary of the Taliban’s return to power.
Disappearing Water Stations for Migrants in South Texas
Amidst one of the worst heatwaves recorded in much of the southern United States, authorities and activists in the southern region of Texas have been entangled in a mystery in this arid area near the Mexican border.
Several large barrels containing water bottles that a human rights group had strategically placed to save the lives of lost migrants walking through had disappeared.
Normally, they were hard to miss. The blue barrels of 55 gallons (208 liters) each, with the word “WATER” painted in capital letters, stand waist-high and protrude from the withered brown vegetation dried by the sun.
Nonetheless, solving this mystery is proving very difficult.
Summer temperatures can rise to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) in the sparsely populated Jim Hogg County of Texas, where there are vast ranches in inhospitable territories.
Migrants and sometimes human traffickers take a route through this county in an attempt to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint on a busy road about 30 miles (48 kilometers) to the east.
In an area over 60 miles (96 kilometers) from the US-Mexico border, migrants can take several days to reach that route after spending weeks crossing mountains and desert and avoiding cartel violence.
“We can’t afford to waste time in what we do,” said Ruben Garza, an investigator with the Jim Hogg County police. Tears welled up in his eyes as he remembered helping locate a missing migrant who suffered heatstroke among the vegetation. The person called for help but died shortly after being rescued.
It’s difficult to keep an accurate count of the deceased as many deaths go unreported. The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, estimates that nearly 3,000 migrants have died crossing from Mexico to the United States, either by drowning in the Rio Grande or due to lack of shelter, food, or water. The Rio Grande is called the Rio Bravo in Mexico.
Humanitarian groups began placing water for migrants on the US side of the Mexico-US border in the 1990s after authorities began finding the bodies of people who had succumbed to harsh conditions.
John Meza is a volunteer with the South Texas Human Rights Center in Jim Hogg County, where the 5,000 inhabitants are spread over an area of over 1,100 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Meza replenishes the water stations with gallon jugs, clears overgrown weeds, and ensures that GPS coordinates remain visible on the bottom of the barrels’ lids.
On one of his rounds in July, Meza said, 12 out of the 21 stations he maintained were no longer in place.
The Associated Press compared images taken by Google Maps over the last two years and confirmed that some barrels were no longer there.