As Taliban Reopens New Academic Year for Boys’ Schools, UN Experts Call For Letting Girls Start Education Too


The latest: Despite international calls and requests to reopen school for girls, the Taliban’s Ministry of Education has announced the start of the new school year in 2023, but has not announced the start of schools for girls. This comes even as a group of UN experts on Monday declared that the refusal of education to girls and young women in Afghanistan “marks a global nadir in education impacting an entire gender, a generation, and the country’s future.”


Go deeper:

  • A letter sent by the Taliban’s Ministry of Education to the group’s education directorates in the provinces on Monday said that boys’ schools would begin on Tuesday, March 21.
  • The ministry added that considering security issues on the first day of schools, a meeting will be held in the presence of scholars, scientists, tribal elders and teachers and talk about the virtue of science and knowledge.
  • It is worth mentioning that after a year of blocking schools for girls above sixth grade in Afghanistan, the group has not announced the start of girls’ schools this year. The Taliban have consistently called the ban on girls’ education a temporary issue.
  • The UN statement read, “On March 22, 2023, schools should be reopening to girls across Afghanistan. Instead, it appears that for the second successive school year, teenage girls will be banned from resuming their studies – making Afghanistan the only country in the world that forbids girls and young women from attending secondary school and places of higher education.”
  • In a statement issued by the United Nations Human Rights Office, Bennet and his colleagues also called on the international community to “intensify calls on the Taliban” to reopen schools and places of education to girls and women; to fund equal and quality education for girls and boys, if schools are reopened, and to facilitate the flow of finances to support the formal education system.
  • Education is a crucial enabling right for realizing other human rights, including the right to work, an adequate standard of living, health, participation in society and communities, equality before the law, and fundamental freedoms, read the statement.
  • The experts include Richard Bennett, special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan; Farida Shaheed, special rapporteur on the right to education; and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
  • “Denying this right to half the population effectively denies women and girls most other human rights,” the experts asserted.
  • They said the Taliban have no justification for the decision “on any grounds, including religion or tradition.”
  • “Being a state party to United Nations human rights treaties … Afghanistan is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education without discrimination on the basis of gender or any other ground, irrespective of the authority in power,” the experts said.
  • They also said that child marriage and child labor rates have increased since the ban was imposed, along with reports of children being medicated to overcome hunger and even dying from malnutrition.​​​​​​​


Why it matters? The Taliban denied women and girls their right to education during their initial rule between 1996 and 2001, and have done the same after seizing power for a second time in 2021, the experts said.

  • Both times, the Taliban introduced bans on girls’ education as temporary measures, the statement added. However, during the first period, the ban was not lifted, and unless the Taliban fulfills its promises to reopen secondary schools and universities immediately, it shows they have no intention of doing so, said the experts.
  • Apart from this, the hardline former insurgent group has implemented its strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia, barring most women from workplaces and public and social life.
  • “Even if the ban is reversed, we are concerned about the quality of education that will be provided for girls as well as boys,” they said adding that “disturbing reports from boys’ secondary schools highlight the replacement of qualified professional teachers with religious teachers, with significant changes in school curricula, and a limited provision of school subjects.”


Take note that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while launching the 2022 Human Rights Report on Monday, renewed Washington’s denunciation of curbs on Afghan women’s access to education and work.

  • Blinken said the Taliban leadership “relentlessly discriminates and represses” Afghan women. He noted the de facto authorities have so far issued 80 decrees that restrict women’s freedom of movement and the right to education and work.
  • “I think it’s safe to say from conversations with countries around the world that to the extent the Taliban is looking for more normal relations with countries around the world, that will not happen so long as they continue to advance these repressive edicts against women and girls,” Blinken stressed.
  • Meanwhile, Qatar said that it had hosted talks with a Taliban delegation led by Education Minister Mawlawi Sayyid Habeeb on “the future of education in Afghanistan and the challenges and obstacles facing it.” The Foreign Ministry in Doha said regional UNICEF representatives had also attended the meeting where “equal access to education for all, especially girls” was discussed, among other issues.
  • “The participants also agreed on the need to ensure the right to education for all, develop a common vision that deals with challenges, and provide high-quality education opportunities for all Afghan students in all regions,” the statement said.


Zoom out: This comes even as Rina Amiri, the US Special Representative for Women and Human Rights in Afghanistan, said that a stable Afghanistan depends on the abolition of extremist policies, such as banning girls from education above sixth grade.

  • She tweeted that at the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, the key point was the importance of educating girls to fight poverty and instability.
  • Even families in Afghanistan called on the Taliban yet again to open schools for girls in grades 7 to 12 as they are worried about the future of their daughters in the country under the regime of the group.
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