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Female students, some with Taliban flags, at a university in Kabul earlier this month. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's note: A previous version of this story was based on statements from a Twitter account claiming to be chancellor Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat. The headline and the bulk of the story have been corrected and updated after the Taliban told Axios that the account was not from Ghairat.

The Taliban told Axios Friday that a Twitter account claiming to be Kabul University's newly appointed chancellor Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat is "fake" following outrage over tweets from the account that said women will be barred from the university for work and study.

What they're saying: "[T]he account [belonging] to the university chancellor, it is [a] fake account," Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Axios via WhatsApp. "Women have right of access to education and work while observing hijab. Work is underway to formulate a mechanism in this regard."

Catch up quick: On Monday, a Twitter account claiming to be Ghairat warned that women would be barred from working or studying at universities as "long as a real Islamic environment is not provided for all."

  • Several mainstream media outlets, including Axios, attributed those comments to the chancellor. 
  • Kabul University on Tuesday wrote on its verified Facebook page the account was fake and that Ghairat "does not have virtual pages in his name." The accounts claiming to be the chancellor were "disseminating fake news, misinformation and rumors in order to confuse and mislead the public opinion and academic community," the school added.
  • On Wednesday, the Twitter account posted new tweets, saying the user was a 20-year-old law and political science student who was "pretending to be the new chancellor" to "awaken Afghans, and the world to put pressure on Taliban to open the schools and universities" and "rise against brutal and inhuman policies of Taliban." Axios was unable to verify the authenticity of the account.
  • By Friday, the Twitter account no longer existed.
  • Kabul University did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

The big picture: Women and girls in Afghanistan have expressed fear they could lose hard-won rights to education, employment and other freedoms, and see a return to the oppressive rule they experienced when the Taliban were last in power in the 1990s.

  • Taliban officials said earlier this month that female students can continue with their university studies, but classes must be segregated and head coverings are mandatory.
  • Many public universities have remained closed, however, per Afghanistan's TOLO news. Officials said this week they will reopen after recruitment and new hiring is completed, TOLO reported.

Go deeper

Oct 24, 2021 - World

Former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan asked about "diplomatic malpractice"

(L to R) U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Doha on Feb. 29. Photo: KARIM JAAFAR / AFP via Getty Images

Zalmay Khalilzad, who stepped down last week as special envoy for the Afghan peace talks, shared few regrets about the deal he brokered between the United States and the Taliban, pushing back against former military brass and other critics who have described it as a "surrender agreement" that set in motion the Taliban takeover this summer.

Why it matters: The 2020 deal included a series of significant concessions to the insurgency and, in exchange, required only that the Taliban agree not to harbor or finance terrorist groups.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

3 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.