Outcry raised as Afghan girls over grade 6 barred from school

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According to a previous announcement by the Ministry of Education and statements from a number of officials of the Islamic Emirate, all schools–for both boys and girls–were supposed to reopen on Wednesday, the first day of the school year in Afghanistan.

However, on Wednesday girls over grade 6 were not allowed to enter their classes. Only in Herat and Badghis provinces were all girls allowed to attend schools.

In some schools in Kabul, girls attended their classes for a few hours but later were told to return to their houses and wait until further notice.

This has sparked international reactions. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said: “The UN in Afghanistan deplores today’s reported announcement by the Taliban that they are further extending their indefinite ban on female students above the 6th grade being permitted to return school.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in a statement said today’s decision “casts a dark shadow” on the school year in Afghanistan. NRC’s Secretary General Jan Egeland said: “We hope the deeply concerning announcement by the Ministry of Education will be reversed. We expect the Taliban government to allow all girls and boys across the whole country to resume their complete education cycle, in line with earlier public assurances they have given. Limiting girls’ schooling to primary education will devastate their future and the future of Afghanistan.”

The US special envoy for Afghan girls, women and human rights, Rina Amiri, who is tasked with promoting human rights in Afghanistan, also reacted. “The reported failure to open schools for girls above grade 6 across the country not only weakens confidence in the Taliban’s commitments but further dashes the hopes of families for a better future for their daughters,” she said on Twitter.

The US Chargé d’Affaires Ian McCary said the failure to reopen girls’ schools was disappointing and contradicts many assurances and statements made by the Islamic Emirate on girls’ education.

Germany’s ambassador-designate to Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, said the issue was “deeply disturbing” and contradicts the Islamic Emirate officials’ previous statements. “This is not only a blow for all Afghan girls who want to attend schools, universities, have career perspectives, but also contradicts the previous announcements made by the Islamic Emirate.”

Amnesty International said that it is deeply concerned about the new development. “The right to education is a fundamental human right, which the Taliban – as the de facto authorities – are duty-bound to uphold. The policies currently pursued by the Taliban are discriminatory, unjust and violate international law,” it said. Human Rights Watch also raised concerns about the girls beyond grade six being prevented from entering their schools.

These international organizations and diplomatic missions have called for the reopening of girls’ schools across Afghanistan. Aziz Ahmad Reyan, spokesman of the Ministry of Education, said that for now girls’ schools beyond grade six will remain closed. The leadership of the Islamic Emirate will make a final decision on this, he said.—Tolonews

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