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By: Farima Nawabi, Researcher
On March 23rd Taliban announced that female students above grade sixth will not be able to attend school. The Taliban argues that they need a plan based on their interpretation of Sharia Law on whether to let girls attend school. This decision left millions of Afghan girls disappointed, hopeless, and devastated with many questions unanswered.
After the rapid escalation of the situation in Afghanistan in August 2021 and the Taliban’s takeover, all girls above grade six were banned from going to school. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where education for girls above grade 6 is banned and they are deprived of their basrightsght.
Throughout the history of the nation-state of Afghanistan, it has remained an Islamic country. Based on the teachings of Islam seeking education is an obligation for both men and women.
Education has been an important value for the people of Afghanistan, and although challenges like war and poverty have slowed educational attainment across the country attempts are continually made to promote education.
Neither the teachings of Islam nor the wishes of the people, align with the rigid rules the Taliban have imposed on girls’ education.
Taliban neither represent Islamic values nor Afghan values.
Farima: My life under the Taliban regime (1996 – 2001)
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, I was a high school student, and suddenly I was asked to stay home for five years. Five wonderful years of my life were squandered. Our house turned into a prison for my sisters and me. The prison of our dreams, goals and hopes for a free and independent life. Our only crime was being women in Afghanistan.
Under Taliban rule, my life felt like a living hell, descending along different levels of disappointment daily. I was mentally exhausted, and hopeless for five years in a row. The shock of losing my education was brutal and I could no longer see the future I had imagined for myself. Even many years later I felt the effects of the Taliban school ban on my life. Now millions of young girls like me are going through the same situation. The Taliban takeover resulted in unparallel devastation to the rights of women and girls. We have been deprived of our rights, including the right to education.
The implication of Taliban’s decision on Afghan women/girls and the future of Afghanistan
Since the 15th of August 2021 the people of Afghanistan, particularly women have been facing a harrowing reality. In violation of international law and standards the Taliban continue to kill and imprison human rights defenders. They violate the rights of women and children while arbitrarily detaining and abducting women activists and members of civil society. Their self-made norms like school ban for girls are wreaking havoc on Afghan women/girls as well as the future of the country.
The Taliban’s harsh regulations on women obstruct their access to health, education, freedom of movement, expression, and association while depriving them from the ability to earn their own income. Preventing girls from accessing education will have lots of long-term consequences. These consequences range from preventing the development of skills and knowledge needed for job market, earlier marriage, future unemployment, financial dependency on male members of the family and dependent female poverty. Furthermore, it increases risk of child abuse, sexual abuse, and harassment. Since women and girls will not have access to protection mechanisms outside the house, and there will be no teachers/counselors who might observe students and notice indicators of abuse the level of domestic violence will almost certainly increase.
The Taliban dictate what women must wear, what type of cell phone they can use, and do not allow them to travel alone. All these rules are imposed by force and coercion.
Human rights have a definite meaning to all human beings, including those in Afghanistan. It cannot be interpreted differently for women in Afghanistan. Every Afghan girl, like other citizens of the globe, has the right to education. The right to education is a basic human right that every Afghan woman is entitled to. Turning our backs on the people of Afghanistan is to turn our backs on the purpose and objective of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I plead with every human rights organization to follow the commitments made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that all human beings including those in Afghanistan, are born equal in dignity and in rights and are worthy of protection. We call for support in preventing the Taliban from committing their atrocities without being held accountable.
The international community, United Nations, International agencies, and regional countries must put pressure on the Taliban to respect their obligations, and not exclude women from society.
Afghanistan as a country that has binding legal obligations to uphold fundamental human rights. Afghanistan is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Child. The Taliban, as de facto authorities of Afghanistan, must respect these obligations.
The Taliban must be accountable for their violations, including the ban on girls’ education. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan, recently appointed, should ensure that the Taliban respect human rights in Afghanistan and are held responsible for their actions.
Afghan girls must go to school and get an education.