The Taliban have effectively banned girls from secondary education in Afghanistan, by ordering that secondary schools reopen only for boys.
The girls were not mentioned in Friday’s announcement, meaning the boys will return to their desks next week after a month-long hiatus, while their sisters will still be stuck at home.
The Taliban Education Ministry said secondary school classes for boys in grades 7 to 12 would resume on Saturday, at the beginning of the Afghan week. “All male teachers and students must attend their educational institutions,” the statement said. The future of the girls and teachers, stuck at home since the Taliban took control, was not addressed.
The edict makes Afghanistan the only country in the world that prohibits half of its population from receiving secondary education.
In a further sign that the recently announced Taliban government is tightening restrictions on women, the building of the former women’s affairs ministry in Kabul has been turned over to the recently re-established ministry for the prevention of vice and the promotion of virtue.
This was the group’s feared enforcer in the 1990s, accused of beating women who violated bars on everything from going out in public without a male guardian to an obsessively prescriptive dress code that even prohibited high heels.
The education decision has troubling echoes of tactics the Taliban used in the 1990s, when they last ruled Afghanistan, to ban girls from school without issuing a formal ban.
“Education and literacy are so highly valued in Islam that the Taliban could not ban girls’ schools on Islamic grounds, so they always said they would open them when security improved. He never did. They never opened the schools, ”said Kate Clark, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, who was working in Afghanistan at the time.
That decision did not spell the end of women’s education, with some small classes in homes and schools run in provinces by charities, she said. However, it made the basic right of childhood to seek an education a high-risk gamble.
“There was always the fear that they could close in a moment. Or that the teachers would be beaten or arrested. This happened. Teaching the girls was risky, a brave act of resistance, but not impossible. “
The Taliban seemed somewhat more open to educating women when they ordered all primary school students to return to class and said that women could study for degrees, albeit in a strictly gender-segregated system that will drastically reduce rank and quality. of women’s options.
But if secondary schools do not reopen for girls, commitments to allow college education would cease to make sense once the current cohort of students graduates.
The Taliban government seeks international recognition and funding, as Afghanistan is on the brink of economic collapse and is aware that the international community is watching closely its treatment of women.
Despite this, its leaders have already effectively banned most Afghan women from work for the past month, calling on their male colleagues to return to the offices, but saying that security conditions mean it is not safe for women.
That reason was used to prevent women from working for the entire five-year period that the group controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s. Now, as then, only a few women in the health and education sectors have returned to work. Their job possitions.
However, the Taliban are now in charge of a capital and a country, very different from the war-torn city they took over in 1996. They are likely to face strong pushback from women, including older students, and older students. many Afghan parents and siblings. who want the women in their families to receive an education.
“The population that has been challenged to try to govern has doubled and expectations have skyrocketed compared to the 1990s. We can anticipate that there will be backlash and perhaps the Taliban will be forced to back down or consider some differences, ”said Professor Michael Semple of the Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.
“In some areas [in the 1990s] the Taliban simply tolerated girls’ primary schools, and in other areas where people challenged them, they backed down. In Jaghori, the girls went on hunger strike to defend their education and won. So the story doesn’t end with these Taliban edicts. “