Afghan Schools Reopen, Girls Banned For 3rd Consecutive Year

Schools in Afghanistan reopened Wednesday for the new academic year, but the fundamentalist Taliban government prohibited teenage girls from joining secondary-level classes for a third year in a row.
Afghan Schools Reopen:- Schools in Afghanistan reopened Wednesday for the new academic year, but the fundamentalist Taliban government prohibited teenage girls from joining secondary-level classes for a third year in a row.[VOA]
Afghan Schools Reopen:- Schools in Afghanistan reopened Wednesday for the new academic year, but the fundamentalist Taliban government prohibited teenage girls from joining secondary-level classes for a third year in a row.[VOA]

Afghan Schools Reopen:- Schools in Afghanistan reopened Wednesday for the new academic year, but the fundamentalist Taliban government prohibited teenage girls from joining secondary-level classes for a third year in a row.

In a statement marking the new school year, the Taliban Ministry of Education asked teachers and students to follow "Islamic principles in their appearance" and avoid clothing that is against "Islam and Afghan customs." However, it did not address the closure of secondary schools for girls.

The Taliban have suspended girls' education beyond the sixth grade and barred many Afghan women from public and private workplaces. Afghan female aid workers have also been prohibited from working for the United Nations and other aid organizations.

The hardline former Afghan insurgents stormed back to power in mid-2021 when U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of involvement in the war with the Taliban.

The Taliban government has since reimposed its strict interpretation of Islamic law to govern the war-torn, impoverished South Asian nation. It has rejected international calls for lifting restrictions on women as interference in internal Afghan affairs.

The de facto Afghan rulers defend the ban, insisting they are working on establishing a female education system that aligns with "Islamic principles" and local culture.

U.N. human rights experts have decried restrictions on Afghan women as "gender apartheid" and called for reversing them immediately.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, renewed its call Wednesday for the Taliban to end what it called an “unjustifiable” ban on girls’ education.

“As #Afghanistan's new school year begins, it is now more than 900 days since girls aged 12+ have been barred from attending school & university,” the mission said on social media platform X. “UNAMA urges the de facto authorities to end this unjustifiable and damaging ban. Education for all is essential for peace & prosperity,” it wrote.

The U.N. has turned down Taliban requests to let them represent Afghanistan at the world body, citing restrictions on women. No foreign country has formally recognized the rulers in Kabul primarily over human rights concerns.

Vedant Patel, the U.S. State Department principal deputy spokesman, reiterated Tuesday that "the so-called Taliban government" should prioritize and address the issue of women's rights before stating their desire for international recognition.

"The fair treatment of Afghan women and girls continues to be one of our highest priorities when it comes to our engagements on policy as it relates to Afghanistan," Patel told reporters in Washington.

"The fact that this is another year in which Afghan women and girls don't have access to these kinds of schools, it's heartbreaking, and it's troubling," he added.

Meanwhile, Taliban authorities say there are no restrictions on girls' education in their religious schools known as madrasas.

"Principally, there is no difference between a school and a madrasa," an official at the Taliban Ministry of Education told VOA last week. He asked for anonymity because the Taliban have banned their members from speaking to VOA.

"If the purpose is education, it can be attained as much in madrasas as in schools, so there should be no insistence only on schools," the official asserted.

However, the U.N. and human rights activists worry that religious seminaries, largely focused on Islamic studies, cannot fully replace traditional schools that deal with diverse subjects.

"I am concerned that the quality of education in these institutions does not adequately prepare girls or boys for higher-level education and professional training to join an effective workforce in the future," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the Security Council this month.

The U.N. report documented more than 7,000 registered madrasas in Afghanistan, with nearly 400 designated for girls, where Taliban officials say there are no age restrictions for female students.

"Recruitment of madrasa teachers continued following the promulgation in July 2023 of the Taliban leader's decree mandating the recruitment of 100,000 new madrasa teachers by the end of 2023," Guterres said in his report. VOA/SP

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