The Taliban have effectively banned girls from secondary education in Afghanistan, by ordering high schools to reopen only for boys.
Girls were not mentioned in Friday’s announcement, which means boys would be back at their desks next week after a one-month hiatus, while girls would still be stuck at home.
The Taliban Ministry of Education said that secondary-school classes for boys in grades 7 to 12 would resume yesterday, the start of the Afghan week.
“All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” the statement said.
The future of girls and female teachers, stuck at home since the Taliban took control, was not addressed.
The edict makes Afghanistan the only country on Earth to bar half its population from receivinf a secondary education.
In a further sign that the recently announced Taliban government is tightening restrictions on women, the group on Friday appeared to have shut down the government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during their first rule two decades ago.
In Kabul, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old women’s affairs building.
This was the group’s feared enforcer in the 1990s, charged with beating women who contravened bars on everything from going out in public without a male guardian to an obsessively prescriptive dress code that even forbade high heels.
Several posts have appeared on Twitter in the past 24 hours showing women workers from the ministry protesting outside the building, saying they had lost their jobs.
No Taliban officials on Friday responded to requests for comment.
When pressed, Taliban officials have said that women have been told to stay at home for their own security, but would be allowed to work once proper segregation can be implemented.
The decision on education has worrying echoes of the tactics the Taliban used in the 1990s, when they last ruled Afghanistan, to bar girls from school without issuing a formal prohibition.
“Education and literacy are so strongly valued in Islam that the Taliban could not ban girls’ schools on Islamic grounds, so they always said they would open them when security improved. It never did. They never opened the schools,” said Kate Clark, codirector of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, who worked in Afghanistan at the time.
That decision did not spell the end of education for women, with some small classes in homes, and schools run in provinces by charities, she said.
However, it did turn the basic childhood right to seek an education into a high-stakes gamble.
“There was always the fear that they could be closed in a moment. Or that teachers would be beaten or detained. This happened. Teaching girls was risky, a brave act of resistance, but not impossible,” Clark said.
Additional reporting by AFP
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