Most sixth-grade girls’ schools have been closed since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. The group had earlier said that all teenage girls would be allowed to return to class from March 23 at the beginning of the new school year.
But late Tuesday, the Taliban’s education ministry ordered the closure of secondary schools for girls until further notice. The girls’ school will be reopened only if the uniforms are designed in accordance with Islamic law and tradition, the ministry said.
In an interview, Wahidullah Hashimi, a spokesman for the ministry, said no date had been set for the reopening of secondary schools for girls.
The international community has put pressure on the Taliban to respect women’s rights by reopening all schools for girls. Eager to recognize their government as legitimate, the Taliban have long said that, in principle, they are in favor of education for adolescent girls, unless appropriate gender segregation is provided.
But women’s education is a divisive issue for the Taliban. When they first came to power in the 1990s, they banned all education for girls, including primary school, and banned women from almost all professions.
Many Taliban remain hostile to the idea that women and girls should be educated or play an active role in public life. The Taliban leadership is also aware that softening its policy on women could push its extremist members into the regional branches of the Islamic State. The Islamic State and the Taliban view each other as enemies.
Teachers, parents and thousands of students who were preparing to return to school were horrified by the announcement of the late night. On Wednesday morning, many girls went to school after their uniforms – only to discover that they had to return home.
“I thought life would be normal again this spring, the girls would go back to school and follow their dreams, but the tragedy continues,” said Somaiya, 25, a high school teacher in Kabul who did not want to use her full name. “With this announcement, I feel like what I did when the Taliban first entered the city: desperate, angry, insecure. The Taliban have not changed. Their attitude towards women has always been the same.”
International condemnation was swift. The UN mission in Afghanistan says it has condemned the decision to increase the ban on girls from attending school.
Ian McCurry, US Charge d’Affaires for Afghanistan, said he was “deeply concerned” by the news. “This is very disappointing and contradicts many assurances and statements of the Taliban,” he said.
Despite hearing that the school would be closed, Zainab Maksudi, an eighth-grade student, went to his school in western Kabul on Wednesday morning in the hope that it would reopen. She joins a large group of girls waiting outside the main gate.
“We were not allowed to enter. The Taliban continue to fire in the air. I ran away, scared. All the girls dispersed and fled the area, “said the 14-year-old.” I’m so sorry they didn’t let me go to school. They are playing with my future. “
Even before the Taliban invaded Afghanistan, it was difficult for Miss Maksudi to get an education. In May last year, suspected Islamic State militants attacked his school in western Kabul. He was wounded in the attack, which still haunts him.
“I appeal to the Islamic Emirate to allow us to study for our progress and for our country,” he said. The Taliban refer to their government as the Islamic Emirate.
Upon hearing the news, a schoolgirl from Kabul broke down in tears on live television. “What is there to say here? What can we do? We are girls, we are from Afghanistan. But we are also human. Why can’t we go to school? “He told a reporter for the Tolo News television channel in Afghanistan.” How long will it last? It’s been 186 days already. “
Elsewhere in Kabul, a group of female students in black and white uniforms protested against the continued closure of their schools, Afghan television shows. Another group of schoolgirls, covering their faces, released a video of them holding school ban signs.
“Hijab is an excuse. Misogani is the plan, “read one sign referring to the Islamic head covering.” Education is my right, “read another.
In September, the new Taliban government ordered the reopening of secondary schools for boys, but said nothing about girls. This is tantamount to ordering the closure of secondary and high schools for girls.
The Taliban’s mixed attitude towards women’s education is reflected in their policies. The primary school for girls reopened in September, and the women returned to university classes last month.
Since September, the Taliban has allowed the reopening of some secondary schools for girls in several provinces. These provinces are mostly in the north, where attitudes towards women are generally more liberal than in the rural south, the Taliban’s traditional stronghold.
In one of those provinces, Balkh, the Taliban introduced strict gender segregation after schools reopened in the fall.
“The changes are huge,” said a female teacher in Mazar-e-Sharif, who did not want to be named. We are not allowed to see him to solve our problems. “
িরJamir Sar and Jalal Nazari have contributed to this article.
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