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Authorities in an eastern province of Afghanistan have reopened some girls’ high schools even though the move has not been officially approved.
“The schools have opened some days ago. The rules about Islam, culture and customs are observed. The principal of schools asked the students to come back to school, and the girls’ high schools are open,” Mawlawi Khaliqyar Ahmadzai, head of Paktia province’s culture and information department, told Reuters.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan as the U.S. military fully withdrew its troops in August 2021. The group pledged to protect women’s rights “within the limits of Islam,” which raised questions as to what rights women would still enjoy under the new emirate. The international community quickly found that the list would remain very short.
The U.N. Security Council urged the Taliban to “swiftly reverse” policies and practices toward Afghanistan women and girls, who have been banned from secondary education, which The Guardian newspaper wrote is just short of an outright ban on higher education for women.
Taliban leaders indicated they might reopen schools in March 2022, but they instead postponed that decision, adding, “We don’t say they will be closed forever.”
The decision to open schools in Paktia occurred without official approval. A spokesman told Reuters the province’s education department had no advanced notice and had no response from the national education ministry on the matter.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen last year told Fox News Digital that there “will be no issue about women’s rights” following the group’s takeover. But, in a recent follow-up interview, he argued Afghanistan has “a different society” that “can’t be matched to a European society.”
Shaheen pushed a rosier picture than what critics have charged and claimed the Taliban have worked to integrate women into the government and roles of power and have not restricted access to education at all. He also claimed that the group has placed women in positions at the ministries of education, higher education, public health and interior, among others.
Piers Morgan raised the issue in an interview with Shaheen, noting that the spokesman’s own daughters attend school, but Shaheen insisted that it was because they “observe hijab.” He recently told NPR that the issue of women in schools focused on “school uniforms.”
“We never said we were against the education [of women],” Shaheen claimed in a recent Fox News Digital interview. “It is a universal right for all. Secondly, the picture is not as it is portrayed by our opponents.”
Shaheen, ignoring reports from NGOs and the U.N. on the situation for women and girls, tried to shift the blame to media reports.
“Right now, there are 450,000 students of private and public universities, all for Afghanistan, and millions of girls studying in primary schools and also in secondary schools,” he added. “It is not like it is being presented by some media.”