Despite official pledges to the contrary, Afghan girls and young women in grades 7-12 were not allowed to attend their classes on Wednesday, the first day of Afghanistan’s new school year.
The Ministry of Education had previously announced that all schools, grades 1 to 12, would be reopened for both male and female students across the country on Wednesday.
However, female students beyond grade 6 were prohibited from entering their schools, or were ordered to leave their classes hours after the schools reopened.
“When I came to school in the early morning, I was so happy, I saw our principal was crying, I did not know the reason. After that, all the students were crying,” said Uranus, a student.
Officials referred to issues related to female dress as a reason for the closed schools.
“We are wearing Hijab, We do not know what kind of Hijab they are talking about?,” said Malalai, a student.
TOLOnews spoke with female students from Kabul and other cold climate provinces who were banned from attending classes.
“They claim to be an Islamic country, they say we are the Islamic Emirate; so, they have to act based on the sayings of the Great Messenger of Islam, as he says, both women and men have the right to learn,” said Malika, a student.
They urged the Islamic Emirate’s leadership to let female students continue their education.
Without naming a clear date, the Ministry of Education announced Wednesday that girls’ secondary schools would remain closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education’s prohibition of female students over grade 6 to attend school has provoked reactions from the public and some former government officials.
Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the former government’s reconciliation council, and a number of politicians and former government officials have criticized the Education Ministry’s decision to not allow girls to attend school after grade six, and called on the Islamic Emirate to provide education to all students.
Former president Hamid Karzai said it is deplorable that girls’ schools remain closed, and he called on the Islamic Emirate to not help the agenda of those who want a “needy” and “subordinate” Afghanistan. All girls’ schools should be opened, he said.
Abdullah Abdullah, former HCNR chairman, said on Twitter that access to education is a fundamental Islamic and civil right. He urged the Islamic Emirate to reopen all girls’ schools across the country.
“Education and access to education is a fundamental Islamic and civic right of all our compatriots. School doors should be open to all girls and boys at the beginning of the academic year,” Abdullah said.
Meanwhile, some teachers and residents of Kabul say the decision of the Ministry of Education shows a double standard toward students and will have negative consequences.
“Unfortunately, in this Emirate, threats, oppression … are used against women and girls. How much can we tolerate? Our daughters cry at university and we cry at home, our daughters cry at school and we cry at home,” the mother of one of the students said.
“What can we do? We ask them to let our children go to school,” said the mother of one of the students.
“It was promised that in the month of Hamal girls could go to school. If we do not keep our promise we are deceiving and lying, which is not allowed in Islam,” said Habiba Sarabi, a member of the former peace talks.
“Like any of them , I’m heartbroken today. “I want to make it clear that learning and getting an education is not just a right for an Afghan woman, it is a duty,” said Fatema Gailani, a member of the former peace talks.
Human rights activists believe that the leaders of the Islamic Emirate should not neglect the education of girls.
“In a situation where girls are deprived of education it means that a generation is gradually being deprived from the political, social, cultural and economic scene in Afghanistan,” said Fawzia Kofi, women’s rights activist.
Allowing all girls to go to school and ensuring women’s rights in Afghanistan is one of the preconditions for the international community to recognize the Islamic Emirate.