Afghan girls take university exams two weeks after classroom attack

Afghan girls take university exams two weeks after classroom attack


Thousands of Afghan girls and women took university entrance exams under the guard of Taliban snipers on Thursday, two weeks after a bomber killed dozens of students preparing for the tests.

Since the Taliban returned to power last August, many girls have been barred from secondary school.

Meanwhile, a collapsed economy has made university unaffordable for many, and parents have withdrawn children from classes for safety reasons.

Last month, an attacker stormed into an education center in Kabul and self-detonated in a separate study hall, killing 53 students, including 46 women and girls.

“There’s so much fear,” says 18-year-old student Zahra, who wants to study computer science.

“Our minds are messed up, we always feel like there could be an explosion at any moment,” she told AFP before entering.

Dressed in black hijabs and headscarves, the students stood under the close surveillance of Taliban personnel as they queued for their entrance exams outside the prestigious Kabul University.

Students were thoroughly searched before being admitted to the exam while Taliban forces patrolled the area and set up roadblocks on nearby roads.

“This time all my worries are due to the security situation. Everyone is so scared,” said student Madina. “Please pray there are no explosions.”

Boys and men had taken their exams earlier in the day.

Students also told AFP that many of their classmates stayed away from the university and canceled the test for fear of being attacked.

The admission tests, which all prospective students have to take, were held for the first time since the Taliban took power.

However, due to restrictions on girls’ secondary education, fewer female students qualify for the exam.

“If there are no educated girls, how could we have a developed society?” said one student, declining to give her name.

Kabul University was attacked by gunmen in November 2020, killing more than 20 students.

But “no one can stop us,” said Professor Yahya Homai.

“Nobody can take our pen and book out of our hands,” he added.

The Taliban’s return to power ended a two-decade war against a US-backed government, prompting a sharp drop in violence, but the security situation began to deteriorate in recent months.

No group has yet complained about the recent attack on the Kaj Education Center.

Most of the victims, however, were members of the Hazara Shia minority, who were often targeted by the jihadist organization Islamic State.

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