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Afghanistan: Taliban orders closure of girls’ schools hours after reopening

The policy reversal was confirmed by Taliban spokesperson Inamullah Samangani, hours after the Taliban had allowed girls in Afghanistan to pursue secondary school education.

Hours after the Taliban regime in Afghanistan reopened schools for girls, the hardline Islamist group backpedalled on its decision, ordering the closure of secondary schools for girls on Wednesday.

The policy reversal was confirmed by Taliban spokesperson Inamullah Samangani after the closure led to confusion and heartbreak among students yearning to visit schools since last August when the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan for the second time in over two decades.

Nevertheless, the move is likely to cause heartbreak among girls in a country where the return of Islamic fundamentalists to power threatens to undo years of progress achieved in empowering women, which also included providing women with access to quality education.

After capturing power in Afghanistan, the Taliban had tried to bill itself as a modernist group, committed to ‘protecting’ the rights of women, children and minorities. But that pretence has often been called out by analysts and observers around the world, who assert that the change in tune of the Taliban is to seek western funds in order to prop up the country’s foundering economy.

Even so, the regime kept up with its promise when in September 2021, it allowed some schools for girls, up to class 6, to reopen. In addition to this, women were also permitted to visit universities. However, high schools for female students had remained closed, with the Taliban regime announcing that classes for all girls would resume ‘at the earliest’.

Then in March 2022, months after the closure of schools for girls in Afghanistan, the Taliban announced that the schools will reopen from March 23 in several provinces, including Kabul. However, the schools in Kandahar—the stronghold of the Taliban—continued to remain close. Even then, the directive was observed patchily, with many schools around the country remaining closed despite having permission to reopen from the Taliban regime.

“We are reopening schools not to make the international community happy, nor to gain recognition from the world,” a spokesperson said at the time.

Plight of women under the Taliban during its earlier stint

However, ever since the Taliban commenced its offensive to recapture Afghanistan last year, it has consciously sought to project greater moderation in its rule, something that is in stark contrast to its ham-handed rule from 1996 to 2001.

Back then, women were proscribed from attending school or working outside their homes, in conformity with Sharia Islamic law. Besides, they were also mandated to wear fully covered overgarments called chadaree and be chaperoned by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban had also placed a ban on music and imposed severe punishments on those who violated the Sharia law, such as chopping off the hands of thieves, lashing women in public and stoning people over allegations of adultery.

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