Education of Afghani Women Jeopardized by the Return of the Taliban

Education of Afghani Women Jeopardized by the Return of the Taliban

Sohana Sahni, Staff Writer

Following the U.S. evacuation of troops from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, the country has been terrorized by a recent resurgence of the Taliban. Due to the re-establishment of this repressive regime, the future and safety of women’s education and other humanitarian rights have been threatened. 

During the Taliban rule which encompassed the late 1990s, the organization ruled through intimidation rather than direct restrictions or decrees. From 1996 to 2001, women’s education was banned in Afghanistan and those who rebelled against these rules were punished with violence and social isolation. In 2001, American troops invaded Afghanistan, seizing the Taliban’s control and reopening schools for girls. Following this change in power, Afghani women were opened to opportunities in careers in business, government, medicine, and law. In fact, the Afghani literacy rate for women reached 30% in 2018. With such advances in women’s education and rights in the past 20 years, taking a step backwards can be disastrous.  

On Sept. 18, when schools reopened, only male students were notified to return to their studies. The Taliban has made it clear that they will be imposing their own interpretation of Sharia law, one which restricts the extent of women’s education. Though they have released statements saying some education of girls will be permitted, it is currently unclear what extent these freedoms reach to. The Taliban has also stated they will not allow men to teach girls, a decree which exacerbates the already dire shortage of teachers in Afghanistan. Female students will also be required by staff to wear an “Islamic hijab.” Additionally, women will be allowed to pursue higher education in universities and graduate programs as long as they are taught in gender-segregated classrooms. 

“We are working on a mechanism to provide transportation and other facilities that are required for a safer and better educational environment,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman and the acting deputy minister of information and culture. 

Mujahid also states that classes for girls in or above seventh grade will return soon. 

Despite promises of security for women’s education, the Taliban continues to make contradictory moves which signal a threatening future. In fact, recently the Ministry of Women’s Affairs compound was converted into the Ministry of Invitation, Guidance and Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. 

With the return of Taliban occupation, all time morale for female teachers and students is extremely low. For female students who previously viewed school with hope and as a place of opportunity, the classroom is filled with a sense of dread and futility.

Sanam, a 16 year old girl who survived a traumatizing bombing at her school last May, expressed her fear for the future of her education. 

I can’t concentrate in my studies. When we think about our future, we can’t see anything,” said Sanam. 

Despite this loss of motivation, Sanam hopes the Taliban will acknowledge the advances women have made in Afghanistan in the last 20 years and accept them as a driving force in the fate of this country.“If they learn that women can be part of this country and they can do whatever the men can, then they may allow us to go to school,” she said.


Photo courtesy PIXNIO.COM