Afghanistan: Girls urge Taliban to lift education restrictions

Photo: Reuters. File photo.

High school graduates in Afghanistan called on the Taliban to lift all restrictions on women’s education, following the recent announcement allowing female enrollment in medical institutions in 11 provinces.

The graduates expressed optimism but emphasized the need for the Taliban to permit girls not only to attend medical examinations but also to reopen all educational fields for them. Despite this allowance, female medical university students voiced concerns about being barred from their exit exams for nearly three years.

The Taliban’s Ministry of Health issued a decree to provincial departments in Badakhshan, Panjshir, Bamiyan, Parwan, Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Logar, Khost, Paktia, and Paktika, amplifying the opportunity for high school graduates to take medical entrance examinations. Enrollment has reportedly started in Kapisa, Khost, Paktika, and Badakhshan.

However, Bakhtar news agency, a Taliban-run media outlet, removed a publication about the girls’ enrollment on Tuesday. Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai stated that grade 12 graduates “can enroll in medical universities of the mentioned provinces.”

Residents like Najia of Parwan and Anosha of Balkh welcomed the move but hoped for its expansion. Yet, female students from Kabul University of Medical Science complained about being prevented from taking exit exams. Zuhra Walizada, a medical university graduate, emphasized Afghanistan’s need for women doctors and urged the Taliban to address these challenges.

Statistics from the Taliban’s Ministry of Public Health six months ago showed that out of 400 districts, only 90 have hospitals, and 310 districts lack women medical experts. The Taliban continues to bar girls above grade six and university students from schooling.

Despite international pressure, including from Islamic organizations, the Taliban remains hesitant to ease education restrictions for girls and women. Kabul resident Arezo urged the Taliban to allow education in engineering, science, and other areas, not just the medical field.

The Taliban’s decree currently limits girls’ enrollment to medical institutes, while the UN and other humanitarian organizations express concerns over Afghanistan’s health sector crisis, particularly the shortage of women doctors.