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Girls excluded as Afghan secondary schools reopen

The Taliban have excluded girls from Afghan secondary schools after they ordered only boys and male teachers to return to the classroom.

A statement from the Islamist group saying secondary classes would resume made no mention of girls or women.

One Afghan schoolgirl told the BBC she was devastated. “Everything looks very dark,” she said.

Despite Taliban promises it is the latest sign Afghanistan is returning to the harsh rule of the 1990s.

In another development, on Friday the Taliban appeared to have shut down the women’s affairs ministry and replaced it with a department that once enforced strict religious doctrines.

During their rule between 1996 and 2001, the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was responsible for deploying so-called morality police onto the streets to enforce the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic religious law, known as Sharia.

‘I am so worried about my future

A statement issued ahead of Afghan schools reopening on Saturday said: “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions.”

Secondary schools are usually for students aged between 13 and 18. Most schools are also segregated, which would make it easy for the Taliban to close down schools for girls.

Schoolgirls and their parents said prospects were bleak.

“I am so worried about my future,” said an Afghan schoolgirl, who had hoped to be a lawyer.

“Everything looks very dark. Every day I wake up and ask myself why I am alive? Should I stay at home and wait for someone to knock on the door and ask me to marry him? Is this the purpose of being a woman?”

Her father said: “My mother was illiterate, and my father constantly bullied her and called her an idiot. I didn’t want my daughter to become like my mum.”

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Another schoolgirl, a 16-year-old from Kabul, said it was a “sorrowful day”.

“I wanted to become a doctor! And that dream has vanished. I don’t think they would let us go back to school. Even if they open the high schools again, they don’t want women to become educated.”

Earlier this week, the Taliban announced that women would be allowed to study at universities, but they would not be able to do so alongside men and would face a new dress code.

Some suggested the new rules would exclude women from education because the universities do not have the resources to provide separate classes.

Barring girls from secondary schools will also mean none will be able to go on to further education.

 

Since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, enormous progress has been made in improving Afghanistan’s education enrolments and literacy rates – especially for girls and women.

The number of girls in primary schools increased from almost zero to 2.5 million, while the female literacy rate nearly doubled in a decade to 30%. However, many of the gains have been made in cities.

“This is a setback in the education of Afghan women and girls,” said Nororya Nizhat, a former Education Ministry spokesperson.

“This reminds everyone of what the Taliban did in the 90s. We ended up with a generation of illiterate and non-educated women.”

Shortly after taking power, the Taliban said the rights of women in Afghanistan would be respected “within the framework of Islamic law”.

 

Humira Saqib

Humira Saqib (born 1980) is an Afghan journalist and women's human rights activist. She is one of the leading activists who through her writings in the magazine Negah-e-Zan (A Vision of Women) and in Afghan Women's News Agency, has been protesting against extreme forms of harassment against women in her radically Islamic country. She pleads that the parliament should enact laws for "Elimination of Violence against Women and enforce it vigorously.... Education, is also a key to changing mentalities around women's roles in society."[1][2][3] She is now pursuing her efforts to further women's rights by working for the women's news agency as a writer and editor.[

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