Girls were excluded from high school in Afghanistan on Saturday after the country’s new Taliban leadership ordered only boys and male teachers to return to class.
A staunch Islamist group overthrew the US-backed government last month, promising a softer rule than its repressive regime in the 1990s, when women were further banned from studying and working.
But the education ministry’s dictatorship was a recent move with the new government threatening women’s rights.
“All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” the statement said before lessons resumed on Saturday.
The statement, released Friday evening, did not name female teachers or students.
High schools, with typical students aged 13 to 18, are often gender sensitive in Afghanistan. During the Covid-19 catastrophe, they faced repeated arrests and detention since the Taliban took power.
Since the US-led invasion overthrew the Taliban in 2001, great strides have been made in girls ‘education, with the number of schools doubling and women’ s literacy rates almost double to 30 percent. However, these changes have been limited to cities.
The UN has declared itself “deeply concerned” about the future of girls’ education in Afghanistan.
“It is important that all girls, including older girls, can return to school without further delay. Therefore, we need female teachers to resume teaching, ”said the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF.
Primary schools have already been reopened, with many boys and girls attending separate classes and other female teachers returning to work.
The new regime also allowed women to attend private universities, but with strict restrictions on their dress and movement.
The women’s ministry is closed
A further sign that the Taliban’s approach to women and girls was not smooth, they seemed to close the government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replace it with a department known to have used strict religious teachings during their first reign.
On Friday in Kabul, staff members were seen holding a sign for the Ministry of Promotion of Humanitarian and Vulnerable Protection in the former Women’s Affairs building in the capital.
Videos posted on social media showed ministry staff protesting outside after losing their jobs.
No Taliban official responded to a request for comment.
Although still marginalized, Afghan women have fought for basic human rights for the past 20 years, as MPs, judges, pilots and police officers.
Hundreds of thousands of people have entered the workforce – a necessity sometimes, as many women were widows or are now helping disabled men following decades of conflict.
The Taliban have been reluctant to respect these rights – no woman has been included in the government and many have been barred from leaving and going back to work.