The United Nations on Sunday urged the Taliban to reopen high schools for girls across Afghanistan, denouncing the ban that began exactly a year ago as “tragic and shameful.”
Weeks after the Taliban took power in August last year, the hard-line Islamists reopened secondary schools for boys on September 18, 2021, but banned high school girls from attending classes.
Months later, on March 23, the Ministry of Education opened secondary schools for girls, but within hours the Taliban leadership ordered the classes to be closed again.
Since then, more than a million teenage girls across the country have been deprived of education, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“This is a tragic, embarrassing and completely avoidable birthday,” Markus Potzel, UNAMA’s acting head, said in a statement.
“It is very damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself,” he said, adding that the ban had no equal in the world.
UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to withdraw the ban.
“A year of lost knowledge and opportunities that they will never get back,” Guterres said on Twitter.
‘Girls belong in school. The Taliban must let them back in.”
Several Taliban officials say the ban is only temporary, but they have also put forward a slew of excuses for the closures — from a lack of funds to the time it takes to reform the syllabus along Islamic lines.
Earlier this month, the education minister was quoted as saying by local media that it was a cultural issue as many rural residents did not want their daughters to go to school.
After taking power on August 15 last year amid a chaotic withdrawal of foreign troops, the Taliban pledged a softer version of their harsh Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
But within days, they began to impose strict restrictions on girls and women to conform to their strict view of Islam, effectively pushing them out of public life.
Aside from closing girls’ high schools, the Taliban have barred women from many government jobs and have also instructed them to hide in public, preferably wearing an all-encompassing burqa.
Some girls’ secondary schools have remained open in provinces far from the central power bases of Kabul and Kandahar due to pressure from families and tribal leaders.