In July, the Taliban announced a meeting of hand-picked clerics to decide the fate of the education ban. But only two clergymen supported the girls’ education. Since then, the Taliban have made no progress on whether they are willing to compromise
“Initially we hoped they would reopen the schools but over time we realized they were doing something else. They just issue misogynistic verdicts every day,” Nazhand said. “I don’t think they are ready to reopen schools, the Taliban have no problem with girls’ schools, but they want to use them politically. They want to continue their rule over society by banning girls’ schools. It is in their interest to put restrictions on women because they cannot do it to men.”
After the US military intervention in Afghanistan in late 2001 that ousted the Taliban from power, the war-torn country underwent a series of socio-economic reforms and reconstruction programs. The post-Taliban constitution, ratified in 2004, expanded women’s rights to go to school, vote, work, serve in public institutions, and protest. In 2009, for the first time in the country’s history, women ran for the presidency.
But four decades of war and hostilities inflicted massive damage on Afghanistan’s basic infrastructure, including the country’s educational assets.
And even before the Taliban seized power on August 15 last year, a UNICEF report found that Afghanistan was grappling with more than 4.2 million children who were out of school, 60% of whom were girls. Although the potential cost of not educating boys and girls is high in terms of lost income, girls’ lack of education is particularly costly due to the link between educational attainment and students delaying marriage and childbirth, entering the workforce and making decisions about their own meet the future, and invest more in the health and education of their own children later in life. The analysis shows that Afghanistan will not be able to regain the GDP lost during the transition and reach its true potential productivity without fulfilling girls’ right to access and complete secondary education. UNICEF also estimated that if the current cohort of 3 million girls could complete their secondary education and participate in the labor market, it would contribute at least US$5.4 billion to the Afghan economy.
A report by Amnesty International also states that the Taliban have prevented women from working across Afghanistan.
“Most women government employees have been ordered to stay at home, with the exception of those working in specific sectors such as health and education,” the report said. “In the private sector, many women have been fired from high-level positions. The Taliban’s policy appears to be that they only allow women to continue working who cannot be replaced by men. Women who have continued to work told Amnesty International that they find it extremely difficult given Taliban restrictions on how they dress and behave, such as wearing For example, requiring female physicians to avoid treating male patients or interacting with male colleagues.”
“When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan twenty years ago, the first thing they did was ban women’s access to education,” Nazhand said. “The Taliban kept large numbers of women isolated and illiterate; the result was a paralyzed and backward society. We should not forget that the Taliban are still suffering from the radical and repressive mindset they had 20 years ago. We should not remain the women we were 20 years ago and we will not remain silent.”
Security threats and terrorist attacks also occupied the students in Afghanistan. In late October, a suicide bomber attacked a class of over 500 students in West Kabul, killing at least 54 school leavers – including 54 young girls. The attack was the second deadly attack on educational institutions in the country since the Taliban took power.