Afghan girls head to Islamic seminaries as high-schools remain shut

Kabul, Aug 25 (EFE).- Thousands of girls in Taliban-run Afghanistan have enrolled in Islamic seminaries in their quest for knowledge and empowerment against all odds.

But girls and young women embracing these Taliban-run institutions to attain education and skills has sparked concerns of extremist indoctrination by the Islamist regime that has banned higher education for girls.

The Islamists have been steadily tightening their grip on Afghan women’s rights and freedoms, barring their access to higher education and work soon after seizing power in August 2021.

A large majority of girls and young women aged 12 and above have been confined to their homes, awaiting the reopening of high-schools, colleges, and universities.

A report from Care International highlights the current dire situation: 80 percent of school-aged Afghan girls and young women – 2.5 million – are out of school.

But the quest for education has not died, leading the Afghan girls to seek education in seminaries where they can keep studying – albeit under the lens of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic teachings.

Nahid Noor, a social activist, explained to EFE that girls are turning to seminary education “when all doors to professional careers have been closed in their faces.”

One such example is Sahar Rahimi, aged 15, who was forced to abandon her studies after reaching the 8th grade.

She now finds herself studying Islamic teachings at a Taliban-run seminary, viewing it as her last resort to continue her education.

“I have no other option. In seminaries, I can at least learn about my religion,” Rahimi told EFE.

Similarly, Madina, 17, who dropped out of conventional school, has also enrolled in a seminary.

While she misses the camaraderie of her classmates, teachers, and the traditional classroom environment, she now finds herself in a different learning setting.

“My dream was to become an economist but now I cannot.”

While the Taliban government has not officially mandated religious education, some high-ranking officials have suggested its importance.

Seminary students engage in the memorization of the Quran in Arabic, as well as the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. Additionally, they delve into Islamic jurisprudence during their studies.

Higher-level seminary courses occasionally incorporate subjects such as geography and mathematics, though nothing that contradicts the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam is taught.

Although Islamic seminaries also existed under the previous Western-backed government, their enrollment, particularly among girls, has surged since the Taliban takeover.

Some religious scholars and experts are concerned about potential ideological indoctrination within these seminaries.

They fear that the Taliban may be using these institutions to impart their extremist beliefs under the guise of Islamic studies.

Sayed Ibrar, a religious scholar, remarked that it is good to learn Islamic studies, but the Taliban’s alteration of seminary curricula at the expense of modern education is questionable.

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