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News ID: 98972
Publish Date : 17 January 2022 - 21:12
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KABUL (Al Jazeera) – Girls’ schools across Afghanistan will hopefully reopen by late March, a senior Taliban leader has told the Associated Press, offering the first timeline for the resumption of high schools for girls since the group retook power in mid-August.
Speaking to journalists, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for Afghanistan’s government and deputy minister of culture and information, said the group’s education department would open classrooms for all girls and women in the Afghan New Year, which starts on March 21.
Although the Taliban have not officially banned girls’ education, the group’s fighters have shuttered girls’ secondary schools and barred women from public universities in some parts of the country.
Girls in most of Afghanistan have not been allowed back to school beyond grade 7 since the Taliban takeover, and reversing that has been one of the main demands of women’s rights activists and the international community for months.
Education for girls and women “is a question of capacity,” Mujahid said in the interview. “We are trying to solve these problems by the coming year,” so that schools and universities can open, he added.
The international community, reluctant to formally recognize a Taliban-run administration, is wary that the group could impose harsh measures similar to its previous rule 20 years ago. At the time, women were banned from education, work and public life.
“We are not against education,” Mujahid stressed, speaking at the culture and information ministry in Kabul.
“In many provinces, the higher classes (girls’ school) are open, but in some places where it is closed, the reasons are economic crisis and the framework, which we need to work on in areas which are overcrowded. And for that we need to establish the new procedure,” he said.
Girls older than grade 7 have been allowed back to classrooms in state-run schools in about a dozen of the country’s 34 provinces.
In the capital, Kabul, private universities and high schools have continued to operate uninterrupted. Most are small and classes have always been segregated.
“Restarting girls’ schools is a good thing, [but] they need to be firm on their promise. These words should not just be for the sake of taking a stand,” Kabul-based women’s rights activist Fatima Rae told Al Jazeera.
In a directive issued last month, Taliban authorities said women seeking to travel long distances should not be allowed on road transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative. The Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice also called on vehicle owners to refuse rides to women not wearing headscarves.
While the Taliban clearly banned women from holding positions of leadership, they have not announced other sectors where women are officially barred.
On Monday, the UN said Taliban leaders are “institutionalizing large scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls”.
A group of UN human rights experts said they were concerned about “systematic efforts to exclude women from the social, economic, and political spheres across the country”.

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