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Taliban orders closure of girls’ school, denying hope and equal opportunity to a generation

PEN International is alarmed by the Taliban’s abrupt announcement that girls
will continue to be denied the ability to attend secondary school, despite
previous commitments that girls would be allowed to receive secondary
education across Afghanistan from late March.

On 23 March, the Taliban’s Ministry of Education issued an announcement
stating that girls’ secondary schools would remain closed until further notice.
The statement is a reversal of previous commitments made by Taliban officials
that it would “allow women to work and study”, despite having effectively
prevented the vast majority of girls from attending secondary school in most
parts of the country following the militant group’s return to power on 15 August

“Education is a universally recognised right for all children. To deny girls in
Afghanistan access to secondary education is both shocking and short-sighted.
Barred from education, girls are unable to develop their full potential, they are
more likely to suffer poverty and poor health which in turn can affect their
families and their communities. We urge the Taliban to reconsider this draconian
measure and allow girls to regain their rightful place in the classroom”, says
Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International.

This deeply discriminatory policy undermines two decades of education
progress in Afghanistan, which has seen girls’ enrolment in schools dramatically
increase at all levels, with over 3 in 10 students in secondary education being
girls in early 2021, a considerable achievement given that almost all girls were
denied access to education during the Taliban’s previous reign.

The Taliban’s decision is devastating news for a generation of Afghan girls who
had hoped to be able to return to school for the first time in months. Many
arrived at schools across the country on Wednesday only to be told to leave just
hours later after news of the Taliban’s decision had spread.

The ongoing suspension of girls’ education is just the latest example of the wide-
ranging misogynistic restrictions that women and girls are subjected to under
Taliban rule, with other examples including the removal of women from the
public sphere, and severe violations of women and girls’ right to freedom of
expression, association and movement. The Taliban has also responded brutally
to women who have peacefully called for equal rights at public rallies by
targeting them with enforced disappearances and even assassination.

At a time when millions of Afghans are on the brink of starvation and poverty,
the Taliban’s determined efforts to deprive women and girls of their agency and
identity is a damning example of the regime’s prioritisation of intolerance and
repression over the welfare of the country.

PEN International urges the Taliban to restore women and girls’ equal access to
education, and to immediately end the suppression of women’s and girls’ rights.

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