Will Afghan Girls Be Educated?

The Taliban have vowed to respect women's rights "within Islamic law," but it's not clear what that really means for Afghan girls

Mohamad Naseer Haidere, Afghanistan 

The door of secondary education has been closed to girls since the Taliban took over. But after a long wait, it was announced that girls’ schools would reopen in March this year. But this did not happen. When the girls went to school, a few hours later the Taliban ordered the closure of schools for girls in the (7th to 12th) grades, even though the Taliban had repeatedly set a date for the opening of girls’ schools. However, the schools were not reopened on the promised date.

There were strong international reactions against the closure of schools for girls and female students and women protested across Afghanistan, demanding for the reopening of all girls’ schools. The girls and other female students reacted strongly against Taliban detention on Saturday, March 26, 2022. The protests were attended by a large number of people from various walks of life, in addition to human rights groups. Protesters shouted, “open the schools”, “justice, justice”. Among the protesters were some students holding their books and notebooks in their hands. Protesting girls gathered in front of the Afghan Ministry of Education, holding up banners that said, “education is our fundamental right, do not polarize it”.

The protesting girls on Friday and Saturday (March 25 and 26) showed real resilience. Although they could have been arrested and even shot by Taliban forces, they stood up for their rights and raised their voices. But there are also reports that some of the women protestors were detained by the Taliban. There were also reports that journalists were not allowed to cover the protests.

The Taliban’s decision to close schools for girls above the sixth grade was announced in Kabul on Tuesday night after a meeting with senior Taliban officials in the Taliban’s most influential city, Kandahar. However the Taliban did not give a specific reason for the decision. That is why the United States of America canceled its talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar in response to the Taliban’s actions. The United Nations and other European countries earlier strongly criticized the ban on education beyond the sixth grade, adding that if the Taliban wanted to be recognized, it must respect women’s rights and lift all restrictions on women. 

Thomas Nicholson, the European Union Special Envoy to Afghanistan, told reporters after the Taliban imposed sanctions on girls’ education that, “we now know how credible the Taliban is and how much they live up to their promises. The opening of girls’ schools, attention to human rights, the formation of an inclusive government, and other actions are steps that could help the Taliban gain international recognition, and the Taliban must seize this opportunity.” 

The decision to close schools for Afghan girls above the sixth grade was made by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzadah in march, which provoked the anger of people in Afghanistan and abroad. 

It should be noted that when Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban on August 15, 2021, many restrictions were imposed on women, such as retractions on their employment. Women were expelled from government agencies and were banned from travelling alone. Recently, restrictions have been tightened and the wearing of hijabs have been made compulsory. Women were banned from eating in hotels and female journalists were ordered by the Taliban to wear masks on television screens. 

One of the protestors, a woman named Navisa, said “the prophet of Islam gave women the right to education but the Taliban has taken it away from us.” 

Another protester, Leila Besem, said, “the Taliban will never silence our voices.” 

Currently, the Taliban regime does not listen to the voices of the people of Afghanistan, nor does it show any interest in opening girls’ schools above the sixth grade, nor is it prepared to do so. But the fact is that the girls want the schools to be opened according to their wishes so that they can go to school without any fear and pressure and be allowed to continue their lessons and work together with men to improve their communities. But it is unknown whether this dream of the girls of Afghanistan will be fulfilled, or simply remain a dream.