Women, girls protest in Kabul over ongoing closure of schools

A group of women and girls demonstrated in Kabul on Saturday by protesting outside some schools, where they called for the immediate reopening of secondary schools for girls.

Girls’ schools have been closed for the past 405 days. The Taliban has not yet stated when girls’ secondary schools will reopen.

The women said they wanted to enter Al Fath High School in Makrorayan area in downtown Kabul, but they were not allowed to.

“We are here to once again make efforts for the reopening of girls’ schools. We are in front of Al Fath High School but we were not allowed to enter the school,” said one protester.

Some parents of students were also among the small group of women who said they are fed up with the situation and a decision must be made to reopen the schools.

They chanted “education without fear” saying it should become a motivation for others to help get the authorities to reopen girls’ schools by asking the international community to put more pressure on the Taliban.

“We are with students and their parents but we were not allowed because we are in favor of education and girls’ schooling,” a woman said. “We should continue our efforts even if only one school is reopened.”

The parents who attended the rally said that their daughters “are struggling with stress and psychological issues”.

“I am the mother of four children. My four daughters are at home with an uncertain future. They were in grade 11 and 12,” a woman said. “They wanted to sot the university entrance exam this year but unfortunately schools are closed for them.”

A young woman who said she was in grade 11 when the schools closed said the Taliban was informed about their rally and they were stopped soon after they started their protest.

“We changed our route but we were not allowed to continue,” the woman said.

UN figures show that at least 1.1 million girls have been deprived of schooling in Afghanistan in just over a year.

US special envoy Thomas West on Friday said the Taliban’s denial of girls’ fundamental right to an education is holding Afghanistan back.

Difference in opinion among Taliban

Taliban deputy foreign minister Abbas Stanekzai, who was a key peace negotiator in talks with the US, said at a gathering in Kabul last month that schools for girls should be reopened.

But at the same event, the Taliban’s acting minister of vice and virtue, Khalid Hanafi, said education is not necessarily an obligation for women based on the teachings of Islam.

He said that education for women is not a total obligation, arguing that it is something that is permitted in Islam but is not stressed as an obligation.

The newly appointed education minister of the Taliban, Habibullah Agha, meanwhile said during a visit to Bamiyan last week that cultural issues, the dress code and some traditions are all obstacles in the way of reopening girls’ schools in the country.

“An Islamic system does not allow mixed classes for boys and girls as it was in the past,” he said.