AFGHANISTAN: On Sunday, the United Nations urged Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to reopen schools to girls in grades ranging from 7 to 12, calling their anniversary of academic exclusion “shameful”.
The U.N. also expressed concerns that the policy, along with other socio-economic restrictions and violation of basic human rights, will lead to a further deepening crisis in the form of greater insecurity, poverty and isolation.
“This is a tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable anniversary,” said Markus Potzel, acting head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.
A year after the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, staunch Islamic conservatives hold authority in all administrative matters of the state.
From teenage girls being barred entry into school to a full head-to-toe burqa regulation, has alarmed Afghans and those beyond.
The religious group has failed to deliver on its promises to enable the smooth entry of girls into education. The ban targets grades 7-12, primarily impacting girls aged 12 to 18.
Although boys have gained access to classrooms, girls have been trapped in their homes. The U.N. estimates that more than a million girls have been barred from attending high school over the past year.
“The ongoing exclusion of girls from high school has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world. It is profoundly damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself,” said Potzel, who is also the U.N. secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
To mark the unpleasant anniversary, 50 girls sent a collectively-written letter entitled, “A Year of Darkness: A Letter from Afghan girls to heads of Muslim countries and other world leaders.” The girls hail from the capital Kabul, eastern Nangarhar province and northern Parwan province.
“The past year, we have been denied human rights, such as the right to attain an education, the privilege to work, the liberty to live with dignity, freedom, mobility and speech, and the right to determine and decide for ourselves,” Azadi, an 18-year-old 11th-grade student from Kabul, said in the letter. The girls named in the letter gave only their first names.
The U.N. has previously acknowledged that the exclusion of women from education and knowledge is a deliberate step back in human progress.
The world body said it increases the risk of marginalisation, violence, exploitation and abuse against girls and is part of a broader range of discriminatory policies and practices targeting women and girls since the de facto authorities assumed power in the summer of 2021.
The U.N. repeatedly appealed to the Taliban government to subvert the slew of restrictive measures set in place.
Since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan, the group has struggled to stabilize the country and has mostly remained isolated. Moreover, an economic downturn has severely affected the lives of millions of Afghans who have been forced into poverty and hunger as the network of foreign aid continues to sever.
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