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Taliban reverses order on opening schools for girls

March 23, 2022

The Afghan Ministry of Education said last week that classes would open for all students, including girls. However, the militant group ordered a reversal within hours after doors were opened.

Tenth-grade pupils attend a history lesson at a secondary school for girls, Nov. 8, 2021
Afghan girls were sadenned by decision to shutter schools for themImage: Alexandra Kovalskaya/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The Taliban asked authorities to shutter girls out of middle and high schools in Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to notice by the Ministry of Education.

"We inform all girls high schools and those schools that are having female students above class six that they are off until the next order," the Ministry of Education notice said.

The announcement came a day after the spokesman for the Education Ministry released a video congratulating students on returning to classes.

The Education Ministry had announced it would open schools for all students, including girls, beginning Wednesday.

The notice added school for girls would reopen once a plan was drawn up in accordance with "Islamic law and Afghan culture."

Footage from Afghanistan media outlets showed girls breaking down in tears and protesting the sudden shift. 

Western officials slam change by Taliban 

"The UN in Afghanistan deplores today's reported announcement by the Taliban that they are further extending their indefinite ban on female students above the 6th grade being permitted to return school, "the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement. 

Ian McCary, charge d'affaires for the US embassy in Kabul, which is currently operating out of Doha in Qatar, tweeted he was "very disappointed" by the order.

"All Afghan youth deserve to be educated," he said. 

Taliban yet to decide on way forward, says senior member

Waheedullah Hashmi, a senior member of the Taliban, told the Associated Press than enrolling girls in higher education could erode overall support for the militant group's government. 

"The leadership hasn't decided when or how they will allow girls to return to school," Hashimi said.

Hashimi said there was support for girls' education in urban centers, but that much of rural Afghanistan, particularly in tribal Pashtun regions, remain against the idea of educating girls.

Taliban curtail women's rights 

Since rising to power in August after US and NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan, the Taliban have enforced a number of restrictions on women, including cutting off secondary education to girls. It kept secondary schools open for boys.

In February, some public universities opened, with the Taliban saying it would allow women to go to universities as long as their classes remained segregated and based on Islamic principles. However, there were mixed reports as women were both allowed and barred from universities.

The Taliban barred education for women the last time they were in power between 1996 and 2001, and the international community has repeatedly made education of girls and women a key part of its demands as the Taliban seeks international recognition of its government and greater foreign aid for the country.

rm/wmr (AP, Reuters)