Taliban deny higher education for Afghan girls

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN –
In a surprise move, the hardline leadership of Afghanistan’s new rulers decided not to open educational institutions to girls beyond grade 6, a Taliban official said on Wednesday on the first day of the new school year in Afghanistan.

The latest setback for girls’ education is certain to be widely condemned by the international community who have urged Taliban leaders to open schools and give women their right to public space.

The unexpected decision came on Tuesday evening as the Afghan Ministry of Education prepared for the new school opening year, which was expected to herald the return of girls to school. A ministry statement earlier in the week urged “all students” to come to school.

However, the decision to postpone the return of girls to school at higher levels appears to be a concession to the rural and deeply tribal backbone of the radical Taliban movement, which in many parts of the countryside is reluctant to send its girls at school.

Girls have been banned from school beyond grade 6 in most of the country since the Taliban returned to power in mid-August. Universities opened earlier this year in much of the country, but since taking power Taliban edicts have been erratic and while a handful of provinces have continued to provide education for all, most provinces have closed educational institutions for girls and women.

In the capital Kabul, private schools and universities operated without interruption.

The religiously motivated Taliban administration fears that enrolling girls beyond grade 6 will erode their base, said Waheedullah Hashmi, head of external relations and donor representative to the Taliban-led administration.

“Leaders have not decided when or how they will allow girls to return to school,” Hashmi said. While he admitted that urban centers are mostly in favor of girls’ education, much of rural Afghanistan opposes it, especially in Pashtun tribal areas.

In some rural areas, a brother will disown a city brother if he finds out that he is letting his daughters go to school,” said Hashimi, who said Taliban leaders were trying to decide how to open up education to girls beyond grade 6 nationwide. .

Most of the Taliban belong to the Pashtun ethnicity. As they swept across the country last year, other ethnic groups such as Uzbeks and Tajiks in the north of the country either joined the fight to give the Taliban victory or simply chose not to fight.

“We did everything the Taliban asked for in terms of Islamic clothing and they promised girls could go to school and now they broke their promise,” said Mariam Naheebi, a local journalist who spoke with the Associated Press in the Afghan capital. Naheebi protested for women’s rights and said “they haven’t been honest with us”.

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Helen D. Jessen