Beginning on April 2, 2022, Taliban authorities reportedly arrested and interrogated 11 women who had disrupted a Taliban event at Bamyan University to protest restrictions on the education of girls and women.
In March 2022, Taliban authorities banned female students past sixth grade from returning to school. On April 2, hundreds of female students, mainly of high school and university age, were invited to attend an event at Bamyan University that allegedly was supposed to focus on reopening educational opportunities for women and girls; however, the event space was instead decorated with pro-Taliban banners and the event content focused on unfreezing Afghan assets. In response, some of the female attendees began to protest by chanting and tearing down the banners, which was captured on video and subsequently shared widely on social media.
In the days following the event, local sources told various media outlets that 11 women who had protested at the April 2 event had been arrested and interrogated, although the exact timeline of these reported arrests is unclear. The Taliban governor of Bamyan denied these accounts. The age of the women is unknown, but Afghanistan Fact Checks stated on Twitter that they were students at the university. It is also unclear if some or all of them were released, with Tolo News reporting on April 9 that three of the women had been freed according to local sources. However, social media posts demanding their release were still being shared at the beginning of June 2022.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and interrogation of student protesters for the nonviolent exercise of their right to freedom of expression – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a party. While students are reminded to exercise their right to freedom of expression responsibly, state and university authorities should also respond to student protest activity proportionately. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the arrest and interrogation of protesters, as well as the deceitful use of campus space for political purposes, undermine academic freedom, university autonomy, and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).