Taliban reverses decision to allow Afghan teenage girls back to school
The Taliban have revoked their promise to reopen secondary schools for girls in Afghanistan.
Millions of Afghan girls have been without access to education since the Taliban seized control of the country in August last year. Hope that girls could start attending school again was dashed on Wednesday 23 March when the Taliban announced that they needed more time to formulate a comprehensive plan for female education in accordance with Sharia law, and for the improvement of security in the country. The announcement was made by the education ministry the same day schools were due to reopen, and caused mass confusion and anger from students and parents.
The delay is fuelling suspicions that the seemingly liberal policies on female education will be shut down by the hard-line conservatives in the Taliban.
Primary schools and universities remain open for females, but with segregated classes. However, the most recent figures from the World Bank show that only about 40 percent of Afghan girls attend primary school. The situation varies across the country, and in some cases local Taliban leaders have reopened schools within their provinces, but this is mostly in the North rather than the more conservative southern regions.
The Taliban occupation of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 saw female education comprehensively banned, and the delay announced on the 23 March is fuelling suspicions that the seemingly more liberal policies on female education will be shut down by the hard-line conservative figures in the party. Rina Amiri, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, tweeted that the changes “further dash the hopes of families for a better future for their daughters.”
In a Twitter thread (linked below), Amiri said the backtrack was a “betrayal of Afghan families”, and “if the Taliban seek legitimacy from the Afghan people, and by extension the international community, they must show that they can and will live up to their promises to their people.”
Female education activist Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for attending school in Pakistan, tweeted her support for Afghan girls:
The Malala Fund, Yousafzai’s non-profit organisation, posted on their website their condemnation of the Taliban’s decision. In a press release, Freshta Karim, an advisor to the Malala Fund said: “Afghan girls are heartbroken — and in Afghanistan and around the world people are weeping alongside them.
“I know the trauma these girls are experiencing. The Taliban banned my friends and I from attending school during their previous takeover two decades ago. They have no legitimate justification for closing girls’ schools.”
Editor: Orla Mackinnon