Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have freed an academic who was detained for a month after he protested against the regime’s ban on women’s education. The academic’s aide confirmed his release to news agency AFP on Monday (March 6). Ismail Mashal, the academic who is a veteran journalism lecturer tore up his degree certficates on live TV in December to protest against the Taliban’s treatment of women. The clip had gone viral in Afghanistan.

He was detained in February after domestic channels showed him carting books around Kabul and offering them to passersby.

Mashal was released on Sunday after more than a month in detention, aide Farid Fazli said.

“I can confirm that he was released yesterday. He is fine and in good health,” Fazli told AFP.

“However, he is not in a condition to talk at the moment.”

Mashal’s release comes as universities across Afghanistan reopened on Monday after a winter break, but only for men as women remained barred from attending class.

After taking over Afghanistan quickly as the US-led coalition left the country, the Taliban sought to project a soft image and had even indicated that women’s education would continue. However, as month passed the regime increasingly imposed social restrictions on women. This has caused global outrage but has did little to deter the Taliban.

Mashal, a lecturer for more than a decade, was in February “mercilessly beaten and taken away in a very disrespectful manner by members of the Islamic Emirate,” referring to the Taliban government, according to Fazli. 

The detention of activists like Mashal “instils fears in the community and has a chilling effect on the overall enjoyment of fundamental freedoms,” the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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