Afghanistan: Malala Yousafzai speaks out as the Taliban backtrack on reopening high schools for girls

Afghanistan: Malala Yousafzai speaks out as the Taliban backtrack on reopening high schools for girls

Activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke out about the Taliban’s decision to continue banning girls from secondary education in Afghanistan. 

Malala Yousafzai has called the Taliban’s decision to continue preventing girls in Afghanistan from attending school a “devastating day for Afghan girls and for us”.

Speaking to the BBC, Yousafzai – who herself survived an attack by the Taliban in 2012 – pointed to a similar ban that took place in 1996 and said that the Taliban will use repeated excuses like “uniform, walking to school, separation, segregated classrooms and female teachers”.

“The Afghanistan the Taliban are envisioning is one where girls do not receive their education,” she explained. 

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Under Taliban rule in the 1990s, girls were banned from getting an education. Following their takeover, Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, made promises that “there will be no discrimination against women”.

However, since the Taliban regained power again in August 2021, only primary schools have remained open for girls (while all boys’ schools have remained open in most of the country).

Human Rights Watch previously warned that the Taliban is continually violating the rights of women and girls across a number of categories, including education, employment, freedom of movement, dress, gender-based violence, access to healthcare and sport.

The government notice claimed that schools would reopen after a decision over the uniform of female students was made in accordance with “Sharia law and Afghan tradition”.

Videos shared on social media showed schoolgirls in tears as they expressed their anger, confusion and disappointment at the decree. 

“Most of us were sceptical when the Taliban made a promise that they will allow girls to go to school,” Yousafzai said of the decision.

“The Taliban will continue to make excuses to prevent girls from learning,” she added.

Later, she continued on Twitter: “I had one hope for today: that Afghan girls walking to school would not be sent back home. But the Taliban did not keep their promise. They will keep finding excuses to stop girls from learning – because they are afraid of educated girls and empowered women.”

The deputy head of UN Women in Afghanistan, Alison Davidian, previously said that some women were also being prevented from leaving home without a male relative, women in some provinces were forced to stop work, protection centres for women fleeing violence had been targeted and safe houses for rights activists were at full capacity.

“Memories are vivid of the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s when there were severe restrictions on women’s rights, and women and girls are understandably afraid,” she said.

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Images: Getty