Tuesday June 18, 2024

Ban on girls’ education beyond sixth grade: Afghan Taliban decision draws flak from across globe

By Mushtaq Yusufzai
March 26, 2022

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban are facing a harsh reaction from across the globe over their unexpected recent decision of suspending education for girls beyond 6th grade in the country.

Also, it was a bombshell for hundreds of thousands of students, the majority of them girls, as they were anxiously waiting for their schools, colleges and universities to be reopened so that they can resume their studies.

Since the Taliban leadership was silent on this important issue, the majority of the girls happily went to their schools when all of a sudden the Taliban government announced closing all institutions across the country for students beyond sixth grade.

Like many other people, even the Taliban lower leadership didn’t expect it as they had committed to the international community in the Doha accord on February 29, 2020, to allow girls education in the country. According to Taliban sources, they had received reaction to this decision from across the world.

In Doha, a two-member UN delegation called on Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s designated envoy to the UN, and reportedly conveyed a message to their supreme leader about restrictions.

The decision has hurt not only girls and their parents in Afghanistan, it was also bad news to a large number of young and educated Taliban leaders and members. A senior Taliban police officer told The News on condition of anonymity that like him, many other people were not happy over depriving girls of their right to education.

“Look more than half of our population comprises women. How can you expect to develop your country and build institutions when you don’t allow girls to seek education,” the police officer argued.

He said like him, children of the majority of the Taliban leaders were studying in schools in the morning and then getting religious education in the evening. “Well, this isn’t a wise decision as we can’t afford to annoy the Afghan people by restricting girls from getting education. It must be our top priority and responsibility to create an environment for girls to freely go to schools, colleges and universities as per the Islamic shariah and our local customs and traditions,” the Taliban police officer opined.

He said the issue came under discussion in a recent first-ever high-level meeting held with their supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada in the chair in Kandahar and some of the cabinet ministers suggested that they should find an amicable solution to the girls’ education if they wanted to work with the international community.

Another Taliban leader presently based in Doha said they didn’t ban girls from seeking education but since the situation is not favourable for girls in the country therefore they wanted to create a conducive atmosphere before sending them to schools.

“Some of the people are unnecessarily making it an issue as if we were to suspend girls' education then we would have not allowed them to go to colleges and universities in Herat,” the Taliban leader argued.

He pointed out that the situation in Afghanistan was completely different before August 15, 2021, and the rulers had nothing to do with Islam and Afghan values and traditions. “Ours is a conservative society and we need to take care of their concerns and values before making any decision. It’s not a big deal and very soon all schools, colleges and universities will be opened in the country,” the Taliban leader claimed.

The Taliban’s decision of not allowing girls to attend schools beyond sixth grade has sent a wave of shock and concern. A currency dealer in Kabul said his two daughters were studying in a private high school in Kabul before the fall of the previous regime on August 15 and both were sitting home since then.

“Life was very normal before August 15 and not only my business was good but also my two daughters used to go to school in the capital city. He said he and his daughters were waiting for the schools to open this week and arranged new books and uniforms for his daughters.

They were excited and happily went to the school but the Taliban closed all the schools and sent them back. It was like we were mourning someone’s death in the family when the girls returned home. He said they knew some Taliban leaders in Kabul and they approached them and requested them to allow girls to continue their education. “The Taliban leaders told us that the decision to close schools was taken on a very high level and was beyond their approach,” he added.