Taliban detains Afghan professor who tore up degrees on live TV

The Taliban confirms the detention of Ismail Mashal, who tore up his degrees on live TV to protest against the ban on women’s education.

Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have detained an academic who tore up his degrees on live television in protest against a ban on women’s university education in the country, his aide said on Friday.

“From today I don’t need these diplomas any more because this country is no place for an education. If my sister and my mother can’t study, then I don’t accept this education,” veteran journalism lecturer Ismail Mashal said in the video that went viral on social media last month.

Mashal’s aide Farid Ahmad Fazli told AFP news agency that the academic was “mercilessly beaten” and taken away in a very disrespectful manner by members of “the Islamic Emirate”, the Taliban government.

Al Jazeera was also able to confirm Mashal’s detention.

The shredding of his degree certificates on local Tolonews in December caused a storm, adding to protests by women and activists against a Taliban edict ending women’s university education.

A Taliban official confirmed the detention.

“Teacher Mashal had indulged in provocative actions against the system for some time,” tweeted Abdul Haq Hammad, director at the Ministry of Information and Culture.

“The security agencies took him for investigation.”

‘Giving free books’

In recent days, domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around the capital, Kabul, and offering them to passers-by.

Mashal, who has worked as a lecturer for more than 10 years at three Kabul universities, was arrested on Thursday despite having “committed no crime”, Fazli said.

“He was giving free books to sisters (women) and men,” he added. “He is still in detention and we don’t know where he is being held.”

It is rare to see a man protest in support of women in Afghanistan but Mashal, who ran a co-educational institute, said he would stand up for women’s rights.

“As a man and as a teacher, I was unable to do anything else for them, and I felt that my certificates had become useless. So, I tore them,” he told AFP at the time.

“I’m raising my voice. I’m standing with my sisters … My protest will continue even if it costs my life.”

Curb on women’s rights

The denial of secondary and tertiary education for girls and women has been a continuing concern expressed by the international community.

The majority of girls’ secondary schools remain closed, and most girls who should be attending grades 7-12 are denied access to school, based solely on their gender, experts have said.

Women and girls in Afghanistan have been protesting against the measures continuously for the past five months, demanding their rights to education, work and freedom.

Their Taliban rulers have repeatedly beaten, threatened or arrested demonstrating women.

The Taliban, which returned to power in August 2021, initially promised women’s rights and media freedom but has since gradually imposed curbs on women, bringing back memories of its last rule between 1996 and 2001.

Some senior Taliban leaders have said that Islam grants women rights to education and work but the hardline faction of the group has prevailed in implementing anti-women measures.

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