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UN calls the year-long restriction on Afghan girls attending school “shameful”

UN calls the year-long restriction on Afghan girls attending school “shameful”

The Taliban were asked by the UN on Sunday to allow girls back into high schools across all of Afghanistan, calling the ban that started exactly one year ago “tragic and shameful.”

Hardline Islamists reopened high schools for boys on September 18, 2021, weeks after the Taliban took over in August of last year, but they forbade secondary schoolgirls from attending lessons. On March 23, months later, secondary schools for girls were finally opened by the education ministry. However, within hours, the Taliban leadership issued another order to cancel classes.

Since then, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that more than a million teenage girls nationwide had been denied access to education.

The Taliban were encouraged to lift the embargo by UN chief Antonio Guterres. Guterres wrote on Twitter, “A year of lost knowledge and opportunity that they will never get back,” 

“Girls belong in school. The Taliban must let them back in.”

Many Taliban leaders claim the prohibition is merely temporary, but they have also rolled out a vast list of justifications for the closures, ranging from a shortage of funding to the need for time to redesign the curriculum in accordance with Islamic principles.

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Local media earlier this month quoted the education minister as saying that it was a cultural issue because many rural people did not want their girls to go to school. The Taliban promised a gentler version of its strict Islamist dictatorship that controlled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 after taking control on August 15 of last year after a chaotic withdrawal of international soldiers.

To conform to their extreme interpretation of Islam, however, they soon started placing severe restrictions on girls and women, effectively pushing them out of public life.

In addition to banning girls’ high schools, the Taliban also forbade women from holding various government positions and forced them to cover themselves in public, preferably with a full-body burqa. Due to pressure from families and tribal elders, some high schools for girls have remained open in provinces far from the Kabul and Kandahar central power centres.

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