Taliban-led government shattered the aspirations of thousands innocent school-going girls.
The sudden U turn on girls education from the Taliban interim government shocked the entire world. Officials said “the schools would remain closed until officials draw up a plan for them to reopen in accordance with Islamic law”.
The move which many think Taliban wanted to use as a bargaining chip for their international recognition is likely to backfire and could threaten the humanitarian aid that have helped keep millions of Afghans from hunger amidst the country’s devastating economic situation.
The latest decision has closed doors to the over one million high school-aged girls who were anxiously waiting for the very day.
Local Afghan media interviewed a 12th-grade student as she was returned from her school gate in Kabul, saying the decision had shattered her dream of becoming a lawyer.
On Monday, the Ministry of Education had announced that all schools, including girls’ high schools, would reopen on Wednesday at the start of the spring semester. The following day, a Ministry of Education spokesman released a video congratulating all students on the return to class. The announcement got huge appreciation from all over Afghanistan and the entire world, but the joy was short lived..
Across the country, many girls had arrived at high schools on Wednesday morning excited to return to the campuses, and some schools did open, at least briefly. But as news spread that the Taliban had reversed their decision, many left in tears.
A 15-year-old student in 10th grade told the local media that she and her classmates were shocked when a teacher announced the news to the classroom on Wednesday morning.
In recent months, the international community has made girls’ education a central condition of foreign aid and any future recognition of the Taliban. Under the Taliban’s first rule, from 1996 to 2001, the group barred women and girls from school and most employment.
Aziz-ur-Rahman Rayan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, in video message said that Taliban officials had decided on Tuesday not to allow girls above the sixth grade to return to school yet. He attributed the decision to a lack of a religious uniform for girls and the lack of female teachers for girls, among other issues adding that a decision in this regards to be taken by the high leadership.
As many a dozen principals and head teachers told media outlets that they only received the new instructions from the ministry after students had already arrived for classes Wednesday.
The move came a little more than a week before a pledging conference where the United Nations had hoped donor countries would commit millions of dollars in badly needed aid, as Afghanistan grapples with an economic collapse that has left over half of the population without sufficient food to eat. It is unclear whether donors will be willing to contribute following the Taliban’s abrupt reversal on the key commitment of girl’s education.
“It creates a lot of challenges in terms of how is the world going to engage with them and try to stop Afghans from starving when there’s no space to negotiate and convince the Taliban to shave off even the sharpest edges of their rights abuses,” said Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.
Meanwhile the United Nations and the United States condemned Taliban interim government decision on Wednesday.
“I’m deeply troubled by multiple reports that the Taliban are not allowing girls above grade 6 to return to school,” tweeted Ian McCary, the chief of mission for U.S. Embassy Kabul.”
Many Afghan girls had waited for months to hear whether they would be allowed to return to school, after the Taliban seized control of the country. When schools reopened in September for grades seven through 12, Taliban officials told only male students to report for their studies, saying that girls would be allowed to return after security improved and enough female teachers could be found to keep classes fully segregated by sex.
Later, Taliban officials insisted that Afghan girls and women would be able to go back to school in March, and many Western officials seized on that promise as a deadline that would have repercussions for the Taliban’s efforts to eventually secure international recognition and the lifting of at least some sanctions.
For months, Taliban delegations have been meeting with E.U., U.N. and American officials, appealing for funding and recognition. So far, no country has recognized the Taliban’s government, and many donors remain skeptical of its promises to meet human rights obligations.
Is there any Islamic justification for barring girls from schools, Molana Yousaf Shah, spokesperson for the famous religious Dar ul Uloom Haqqania Akora Pakistan, told Khyber News that there is no justification whatsoever in this regard, saying Islam has made education essential for boys and girls alike.