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Taliban say tweets from Kabul university chancellor are fake


By Eliza Mackintosh, Karen Smith and Tara John, CNN

Correction: A previous version of this story and headline incorrectly attributed remarks to a Twitter account purporting to be the chancellor of Kabul University. CNN has subsequently learned that this account was not affiliated with the chancellor or the university. This story has been updated.

(CNN) — The Taliban said a Twitter account purporting to be the militant group’s new chancellor for Kabul University is fake, and rejected the claims made from the account.

CNN and several other media outlets reported earlier this week on a tweet from the account claiming to be chancellor Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, which stated that women would be indefinitely banned from the university, either as instructors or students.

“I give you my words as chancellor of Kabul University. As long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women will not be allowed to come to universities or work. Islam first,” the tweet read.

But the account does not belong to the chancellor — it appears to belong to a student.

CNN spoke to the person in control of the account on Thursday. He said he was a 20-year-old Kabul University student and sent CNN a copy of his student ID. He asked CNN to call him Mahmoud, rather than his real name, due to safety concerns.

Mahmoud said he created the Twitter account on September 21 after learning that Ghairat had been appointed as chancellor.

He said he was angry about Ghairat’s appointment and the Taliban’s wider impact on education in Afghanistan, and decided to air his frustrations by creating the account.

“I decided to create this account because I was angry and disappointed, since Afghanistan’s takeover by Taliban — not only me, all Afghans, all my classmates and friends, they are desperate because they see no future under the Taliban,” Mahmoud said. “It was a parody account. I didn’t expect it would grab a lot of attention.”

But the account did ultimately grab the attention of the Taliban.

Kabul University and the Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education released statements on Facebook on Tuesday, denying that Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat had any social media accounts and stating that any pages under his name were intended to spread fake news.

Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, told CNN on Thursday that the account was fake and he rejected its content.

But Mahmoud, and other university students interviewed by CNN, say that his claims on the account were not far from the reality.

The Taliban, who ruled over Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001 when the US-led invasion forced the group from power, have historically treated women as second-class citizens, subjecting them to violence, forced marriages and a near-invisible presence in the country.

Since seizing power in August amid the US withdrawal, Taliban officials have insisted that life for women under their rule would be better this time — that they would be allowed to study, seek employment and work in government. But those promises have not materialized.

So far, women have been allowed to continue their university education, but the Taliban have mandated the segregation of genders in classrooms and said female students, lecturers and employees must wear hijabs in accordance with the group’s interpretation of Sharia law.

While some private universities have started segregating classrooms, public universities have not yet reopened with the new policy in place, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo news and students CNN spoke to.

CNN has also spoken to young women who say that the logistics and security of getting to university, let alone sitting in a segregated space, makes the idea of returning to class untenable.

The Taliban’s severe restrictions on women’s education are having an impact on men too, Mahmoud told CNN Thursday.

“Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, I haven’t been to the university. Not only me, but all the students of public university are stuck at home,” Mahmoud said, adding that he is studying law and political science but does not believe he will be able to pursue his degree under the militant group.

“My reason to do this was to draw the attention of the world, and also Afghan people, to put pressure on the Taliban not to behave as though it was the stone age. Not to behave like medieval times. It is 2021, it is the 21st century, and Afghans have experienced 20 years of democracy. They should not deprive us of our right to education.”

Earlier in September, the Taliban Ministry of Education ordered male students and teachers from the 6th to the 12th grade to report to their schools. The announcement did not mention female students at all, sowing fears that girls would once again be excluded from secondary education.

But the Taliban denied claims that Afghan girls would be banned from secondary schools after calling on boys, but not girls, to resume education, claiming they needed to set up a “secure transportation system” for female students before allowing them back into classrooms.

The absence of any female representatives from their newly-formed interim government and an almost overnight disappearance of women from the country’s streets has led to major worries about what will happen next for half of Afghanistan’s population.

Militants have in some instances ordered women to leave their workplaces, and when a group of women protested the announcement of the all-male government in Kabul, Taliban fighters beat them with whips and sticks.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sarah Dean contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Asia/Pacific

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