An Afghan Student Parodied the Taliban’s New University Chancellor—and Everyone Believed It

October 2, 2021 Topic: Afghanistan Region: Eurasia Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: AfghanistanChancellorTalibanStudentTwitter

An Afghan Student Parodied the Taliban’s New University Chancellor—and Everyone Believed It

“All these days that I was tweeting pretending to be the new chancellor, no one doubted my words.”

Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, a long-time Taliban member appointed as the new chancellor of Kabul University, caused a brief firestorm in Western media after he decreed via Twitter on Monday that women would no longer be allowed to attend or teach.

“As long as [a] real Islamic environment is not provided for all,” Ghairat wrote, “women will not be allowed to come to universities or work. Islam first.”

After the tweet caused a firestorm, including reporting by the New York Times and the Washington Post, Ghairat clarified that women might, in theory, be allowed to attend Kabul University in the future, but he would not allow them to attend while “un-Islamic” conditions persisted. “Until we create an Islamic environment,” the chancellor wrote, “women will have to stay at home.”

Although these remarks contradicted the Taliban’s earlier promises that women would not be forbidden from school—as well as an earlier decree by Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the Taliban’s newly appointed higher education minister, declaring that women would be allowed to continue their studies as long as they were kept physically separate from men—they fit with earlier Taliban actions in Kabul and other cities, where girls’ schools were closed and women were fired from their positions.

On Wednesday, however, Twitter’s “Ghairat” revealed that they were actually a twenty-year-old Kabul University student attempting to draw attention to students’ conditions under Taliban rule and the utter inappropriateness of Ghairat’s appointment to the job. 

“All these days that I was tweeting pretending to be the new chancellor, no one doubted my words,” the student, who has remained anonymous, wrote. “The reason is clear, what I was saying is literally both the ideology and actions of [the] Taliban towards education, human and women[’s] rights in Afghanistan.”

“Ghairat” added that, during the insurgency, the real Ashraf Ghairat had openly called for Taliban fighters to kill journalists. They stated that since the group’s conquest of Afghanistan in mid-August, all universities had been closed, and all students, male and female, had been forced to remain home.

Ghairat, who holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kabul University, replaced Vice-Chancellor Muhammad Osman Baburi, a Ph.D. holder. His appointment to chancellor led roughly seventy faculty from Kabul University to resign, and the country’s national teachers’ union sent a letter to the Taliban government demanding that he be fired, to no effect.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters