On Sunday, the United Nations urged the Taliban to reopen secondary schools for girls across Afghanistan, condemning this as “tragic and shameful”.
Weeks after the Taliban seized power in August last year, they reopened boys’ high schools, but prevented female high school girls from attending classes.
Months later, on March 23, the Ministry of Education opened secondary schools for girls, .
Since then, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said, more than one million teenage girls have been denied an education across the country.
“This is a tragic, shameful and completely avoidable memory,” Markus Putzel, acting head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“It is deeply damaging to a generation of girls and the future of Afghanistan itself,” he said, adding that the ban is unparalleled in the world.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to rescind the ban.
“A year of lost knowledge and opportunity they will never get back,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The girls belong to the school. The Taliban should let them go back.”
Several Taliban officials say the ban is only temporary, but they have also put forward a series of excuses for the closure, from a lack of funds to the time needed to reformulate the curriculum along Islamic lines.
Earlier this month, the Minister of Education was quoted by local media as saying that it is a cultural issue, as many rural residents do not want their daughters to go to school.
After seizing power on August 15 last year amid a chaotic withdrawal of foreign forces, the Taliban promised a softer version of their ruthless Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
But within days, they began imposing severe restrictions on girls and women to conform to their strict version of Islam – effectively banishing them from public life.
Aside from closing girls’ secondary schools, the Taliban banned women from many government jobs and also ordered them to cover up in public, preferably with an all-encompassing burqa.
Some girls’ secondary schools remained open in provinces far from the central authority bases in Kabul and Kandahar due to pressure from families and tribal leaders.