Afghan girls complete a year away from schools

Kabul, Sep 18 (EFE).- The Taliban’s ban on secondary education for girls completed a year on Sunday, after the Islamists had prevented the institutions from reopening once they seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021, under the pretext that they would adapt the education system to Islamic law.

The ban was officially announced on Sep. 18, 2021, with an order banning girls studying in secondary schools from returning to classes, although the boys were able to resume their education.

The Talban government later reneged on its promise of reopening the girls’ school with a last-minute decision on Mar. 23, when many girls had already reached their schools in the hope of being allowed to study.

There have been no signs of the regime changing its stance since then.

“I felt a deep sense of pain when our eager friends and students arrived for classes full of joy, but found closed gates and the disappointed faces of our teachers. I have not seen anything like it my whole life,” Hadia, a 14-year-old girl from Kabul, told EFE.

The Taliban restrictions as well as the ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis in the country has worsened the situation of Afghan women over the past year.

“It is really difficult to survive, we have been hit psychologically and economically, our schools are closed and my mother lost her job. Overall, we are deprived of education as well as our rights,” another Kabul resident Lima – aged 16 – told EFE.

The indefinite closure of these schools has triggered sporadic protests by Afghan students and teachers, despite the Taliban cracking down dissent against their policies.

“Banning girls’ education is idiotism and extremism,” activist Susan Hamidi said in an online campaign demanding that the schools be reopened.

Another activist of the campaign, Marzia Mohammadi, said that Afghan women were “living in the darkness” under the Taliban regime.

After seizing control of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 following the withdrawal of United States’ troops, the Taliban have imposed a string of restrictions on women based on their rigid interpretation of Islam, despite initially promising to change their policies.

The Islamists have deprived Afghan women of social rights and access to work, silenced journalists and cracked down on protests despite censure by the international community, which has largely refused to recognize the Taliban’s interim government.

“Today marks one year since girls were banned from attending high school in #Afganistan. One year of lost learning and future opportunities,” the UNICEF tweeted on Sunday, adding that the girls “belong in school.”

In early September, the reopening of some girls’ schools in the eastern Paktia province raised hope among Afghans, but the prompt negative response of the Taliban crushed the initiative.

Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in a presser on Sep. 6 that if schools had to open, it would be at once in the entire country, and they were investigating how the institutes were allowed to open in Paktia.

Now the Paktia schools have been closed again and Education Minister Noorullah Munir ruled out opening high-schools for women during a recent visit to southern Afghanistan.

“The current situation in Afghanistan does not allow the 16-17 year-old girls to return to the schools,” Munir said in a statement that elicited disapproval from women’s rights activists.

Despite promises to the contrary, the fundamentalists have ensured a repeat of their previous regime (1996-2001), when they had banned women from public spaces and confined them to homes based on a strict social code known as Pashtunwali, linked to a regressive interpretation of Islam.

“I remember the previous Taliban government, when we were banned from schools. But when we returned to classes with a new government under the (former) president Hamid Karzai, we found it very difficult, as we were of university-going age,” Azada Joya, a schoolteacher and psychologist, told EFE.

“I still have contact with my students, (…) most of them are in depression and anxiety, they are crying on the phone,” she added. EFE

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