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Taliban arrested prominent education campaigner who refused to back down

Afghanistan Taliban rule A well-known education campaigner was arrested this week for her work and “meetings with the West”, as Islamic hardliners continue to try to stamp out dissent and keep girls out of school. Matiullah Wessa, founder of Penn Path, who has spent more than a decade advocating access to education and campaigning against corruption, was arrested in Kabul on Monday while returning from a trip to Belgium, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said.

Matiullah, 30, brought her mobile library and advocacy to some of Afghanistan’s most remote areas to improve access to education for girls and highlight corruption in Afghanistan’s national education system.

Men and women, old and young, from every part of the country are demanding the Islamic right to education for their girls. PenPath Women Volunteers call for girls’ education and right to education #PenPathGirlsEduCampaign #PenPathGirlsEduCampaign pic.twitter.com/gekG7fsGKj

— Matiullah Wesa (@matiullahwesa) March 26, 2023

The Taliban did not elaborate on the reason for Weser’s detention, but a senior official in the group confirmed to CBS News that the activist was “in custody” after his arrest, which was “connected to his activities and high-level meetings” with the West.” The Taliban official spoke on condition of anonymity. Condition spoke to CBS News because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Wessa visited Belgium and met with various European Union officials to explain the growing situation of women and girls in education in Afghanistan. He also met with UN officials and foreign diplomats in Kabul, all of which are believed to have irritated the Taliban, and he was arrested this week.


Motiullah Wessa, founder of the Afghan education campaign group Penn Path, is seen in a file photo from his Twitter account.

Motiullah Wessa/Twitter

Ataullah Wessa, the activist’s older brother who is not in Afghanistan, told CBS News that Matiullah and another of his brothers had gone to a mosque for regular prayers on Monday evening when two pick-up trucks filled with armed Taliban members arrived. Takes Matiullah.

“We are a family of education campaigners, and we will not stop raising our voices for education for every child in Afghanistan,” Ataullah Wessa told CBS News.

Taliban forces raided the family’s home in Afghanistan on Tuesday, “detaining two of my other brothers and taking everyone’s phones, laptops and valuables,” Ataullah said.

“Our house was besieged by the Taliban,” he said. “My two completely innocent brothers were captured and tortured.”

He described it as “a barbaric act committed by the Taliban against neutral people” and he called on “the international community and the Afghans, help us; we are not the military type. We are people who only believe in the power of the pen.”

Recently we visited 24 districts of the country to talk to elders and locals and discuss girls schools and…

Posted by pen path on Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Matiullah Wesar’s arrest comes just after the start of the new academic year in Afghanistan, according to CBS News ReportThe first day got off to a rocky start with completely empty classrooms as Taliban authorities neglected to inform parents that school had long been observed as a public holiday.

Classes are less full because the Taliban have banned girls over the age of 12 from attending school. The group’s domestic intelligence agency has detained several activists campaigning for women’s education.

A group of girls describe their escape from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan 60 minutes


Wesser’s last tweet, before her arrest, showed women volunteering for her Penn Path organization, “asking for their daughters’ Islamic right to education.”

The Wessa family hails from Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar region, the traditional home of the Taliban. Since the Taliban regained power in the country with the US withdrawal in August 2021, they remain among the few to continue pushing for access to fair education in the region.

Wesser’s arrest has sparked worldwide condemnation, with Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, saying he was concerned the activist had been detained.

“His safety is paramount and all his legal rights must be respected,” Bennett said on Twitter.

The hashtag #ReleaseMatiullahWesa quickly started gaining steam on social media platforms.

Afghan poet and writer Matiullah Turab condemned the activist’s arrest in a tweet, calling him “a kind, honorable, patriotic, educated young man who is pained by the plight of his countrymen.”

“There were many opportunities for him to leave the country, but he did not want to go anywhere and was thirsty for the prosperity and progress of his countrymen,” said Turab.

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