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Girls’ education in Afghanistan

It seems that the Taliban's obsession with pontificating on issues pertaining to the lives of women, in such a way that denies them the right to come out of their homes out of necessity or to attend schools, will lead to creating more difficulties for female folk in the near future

Almost a year has elapsed since the Afghan Taliban made an announcement regarding the opening of schools for girls soon after taking over Kabul. However, they have failed to come up to their words and no mechanism has been evolved for allowing girls from grade 6 onwards to pursue education in schools. In fact, they are reluctant and resist any such move on one pretext or the other.

Despite the fact that many ambassadors and international organisations have asked the Taliban to lift the ban on women’s education, from time to time they have told some media organisations that there is a process going on to make proper legislation about women’s education, but still nothing has been done practically.

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The schools for girls were planned to be opened on March 23 this year when the new semester started, but they were sent back over the issue of finalisation of a Sharia-compliant school uniform for girls. In the past, girls were barred from schools and most workplaces when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. The so-called guardians of Islam are once again trying to impose their misplaced agenda in Afghanistan and they have barred millions of girl students from attending their schools.

So far, only girls up to the sixth grade have been allowed to attend school. It is also a fact that the female population has started showing some resistance to these undue curbs. There are some areas in some northern provinces like Balkh, Kunduz, and Sar-e-Pul, where local authorities have taken a different approach and managed to keep girls in the classroom without attracting the ire of the Taliban. Besides, certain individuals have made the arrangement of underground and secret schools, where young girls are taught. Moreover, a faction of clerics has been in favour of girls’ education. But it is a long journey and it will take time to fight the rigid stance of the Taliban towards education. It’s in fact a mindset, which does not accept women’s role in society in any form. For them, women are children of a lesser god and are considered inferior to men.

While the reality is that 48 percent of the population in Afghanistan consists of women and thus Taliban need to realise that the country cannot progress without the active participation of its women in building society.

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The present status of women is devastating, especially for female aspirants for education and it could lead to further alienation of the international community towards Afghanistan. If it was the issue of uniforms only, why did they fail to decide it in one year’s time? Their decision has sparked widespread anger and strengthened the suspicion that the Taliban are untrustworthy. Who did allow these guardians of Islam to suspend studies of girl students on one pretext or the other? Are women not human? Don’t they have any future? Arguably, such self-styled proclamations will only create further chaos in Afghanistan.

The moral brigade is once again ready to infringe upon human rights. This is an example of lunacy of the highest order. Today, girls have been barred from attending schools; tomorrow they could be axed to death for flashing a smile or wearing something less than sharia-compliant clothing. It seems that the Taliban’s obsession with pontificating on issues pertaining to the lives of women, in such a way that denies them the right to come out of their homes out of necessity or to attend schools, will lead to creating more difficulties for female folk in the near future. In reality, if anyone has the authority to debate these issues, it is a body of elected individuals, not a cabal of unaccountable mullahs. While the Taliban pass tedious guidelines on issues that in this day and age should not even be under discussion, they avoid delving into the real grievances of the people and are yet to provide Islamic aid on issues such as poverty, education or interfaith harmony. The international community should come to the rescue of female students in Afghanistan especially, Pakistan needs to convince the Taliban to abandon so-called interpretations of Islam and preaching a wrong narrative. Instead of bringing positive change, the Taliban are reincarnating themselves with regressive declarations. It must be controlled before it is too late.

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