“For Afghan girls, the earth is unbearable, and the sky is unreachable.”
16 year-old Atefa

Since the Taliban’s occupation of Kabul in August last year, girls are banned from going to school. Today, as the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child, we focus on the evolution of the Taliban’s violence and repressive policy against girls and women’s education in Afghanistan.

Shortly after taking power in August last year, girls above the age of 13 were expelled from  schools by the Taliban. 

“Using false fatwa [religious decree] by the mullahs [Islamic clerics], the Taliban try to persuade families that the education of girls is not well accepted in society and in Islam. Girls are beaten or even locked up at home,” says Mezhgan Trabzadah, an Afghan activist living in exile in France, in an interview with the DISSIDENT club.

According to Ms. Trabzadah, the Taliban have utilized all forms of violence to keep girls out of school. “In the years 1996 to 2001, during the first period of Taliban rule, I myself was a victim of Taliban violence. Once with a friend we were beaten because they saw us with notebooks under our arms. We went to a secret school to continue our studies,” she recalls.

The Taliban’s policy towards girls’ education has further worsened in recent months to include unwarranted inspections of girls to check if they have hit puberty, who are then faced with expulsion. However, for those who are allowed to remain in school, learning has taken a completely new form.  

“The Taliban try to brainwash children in schools. They added many Islamic subjects instead of main topics in university. And they teach girls the principles of housekeeping!” says Mursal Sayas, an Afghan activist who fled the country last year after the fall of Kabul, in an interview with the DISSIDENT club. “The Taliban did not let a Tajik girl pass her exams last week for entering a university. This is how  they apply violence and discourage girls from continuing their education,” she adds further.

While they ban other girls from getting education, members of the Taliban themselves secretly admit their daughters to education programs according to an investigation by The Guardian, which exposed how the group officials find ways for their young girls to get education. Many even opt  for secret schools that were opened against their own orders.

“The Taliban know the power of education. This is why they send their children to private and high-class education [while banning] schools and universities for girls and women in Afghanistan,” explains Sayas. 

The female education ban is believed to be part of a broader strategy to eliminate women from public life, denying them any social or political representation. It also serves as a racist framework for the perpetuation of violence against other ethnic and religious identity groups in Afghanistan, especially those in the minority, as seen on 30th September, when a suicide bomber attacked an educational institute in a Hazara neighbourhood in Kabul, killing at least 46 girls and injuring more than a 100 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is in continuation of series of targeted attacks against the Hazara minority in Afghanistan, who have been systematically persecuted by the Taliban and other terror groups for belonging to the Shiite sect within Islam.

“The message sent by the attack two weeks ago on the educational institute is precisely a strategy to intimidate the girls to not attend an education system,” says Trabzadah. 

Globally the Taliban have been repeatedly condemned for their ban on education of girls, and the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate was initially asked to reverse this ruling before there could be any deliberation on the fate of their international acceptance.

But unfortunately, the Taliban have held their position while the world seems to soften their stance against the terror group. The recent Tashkent Conference has revealed a growing acceptance of the Taliban as a political reality in the country, as a number of countries begin to engage in transnational trade and infrastructural projects with Afghanistan under the Taliban. Activists say by doing so, these countries are betraying the only hope for young girls in the country, who believed that the world would unite in its fight for their rights and pressure the Taliban to reverse their anti-women policies.

Written by: Samaya Anjum.
Edited by: Taha Siddiqui