Afghan women protest against girls' school closure, demanding Taliban 'open the schools'

The Taliban have been widely condemned for issuing a last-minute U-turn earlier this week, ordering them to close, just hours after teenage pupils began to arrive for the start of the new academic year

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Sunday, March 27, 2022, 12:54 PM IST
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Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul | AFP

Women and girls staged a protest near the Taliban’s ministry of education in Kabul on Saturday, calling on the group to reopen girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan.

The protesters chanted, "Education is our right! Open the doors of girls' schools!" while armed Taliban members looked on.

About two dozen girls and women chanting "open the schools" protested in the Afghan capital Saturday against the Taliban's decision to shut their secondary schools just hours after re-opening them this week.

The Taliban have been widely condemned for issuing a last-minute U-turn earlier this week, ordering them to close, just hours after teenage pupils began to arrive for the start of the new academic year.

"Open the schools! Justice, justice!" chanted protesters Saturday, some carrying school books as they gathered at a city square in Kabul.

They held banners that said: "Education is our fundamental right, not a political plan" as they marched for a short distance and later dispersed as Taliban fighters arrived at the scene.

The protest was the first held by women in weeks after the Taliban rounded up the ringleaders of initial demonstrations held after they returned to power in August.

The Taliban has previously broken up demonstrations and detained those involved, but on this occasion the protest was allowed to continue.

Since the group took power last August, girls' primary schools in most of the country, along with all boys' schools, have remained open, but older girls have not been allowed back in the classroom.

The Taliban's Ministry of Education had said girls' secondary schools would restart on Wednesday, but the decision was overruled by the group's central leadership, who said they could remain closed until a "comprehensive" and "Islamic" plan for them had been drawn up.

The Taliban’s U-turn is believed to reflect divisions between hardline and more moderate elements. In some provinces, particularly in northern Afghanistan, local Taliban officials have allowed teenage girls to continue to study, but others appear to oppose the idea.

The US special representative for Afghanistan said on Saturday he was hopeful the U-turn would be rethought. Thomas West told the Doha Forum: “I am hopeful we will see a reversal of this decision in the coming days.” The US had cancelled economic meetings with the Taliban in Doha, officials said.

In a further deterioration of life under Taliban rule, women were prevented from boarding aircraft, including some flying overseas, because they were travelling without a male guardian, two Afghan airline officials said on Saturday.

Officials said dozens of women who arrived at Kabul’s international airport on Friday to board domestic and international flights were told that they could not do so without a male guardian. Some of the women were dual nationals returning to their homes overseas, including some from Canada, it was reported.

Women were denied access to flights to Islamabad, Dubai and Turkey on Kam Air and the state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines after a Taliban leadership order, the officials said.

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