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Under Taliban rule, the Afghan school year begins with empty classrooms

KABUL — Afghanistan’s schools reopened for the new academic year on Tuesday, but no classes were held and tens of thousands of teenage girls were prevented from attending classes as students were unaware of the start. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where Girls are prohibited From going to secondary school and university.

Taliban authorities have imposed a strict interpretation of Islam since returning to power in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces that backed previous governments during a 20-year war with the extremist group.

Several teachers and officials told AFP that the education ministry had not made any public announcement of the reopening of schools.


A worker clears a path at Esteklal High School in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21, 2023, as schools in Afghanistan reopen for the new academic year, but no classes are held as students are unaware of the start and thousands of teenage girls remain barred from classrooms.

Representative Kohser/AFP/Getty

“A letter issued by the education minister was given to us by our principal today to reopen the school, but since no public announcement was made, no students came,” said Mohammad Osman Atayi, a teacher at Saidal Naseri Boys High School. Kabul.

AFP reporters visited seven schools in Kabul and found only a handful of teachers and elementary students turned up — but no classes held. Schools have also reopened in provinces including Herat, Kunduz, Ghazni and Badakhshan but no lessons have been held there either, AFP correspondents said.

Tuesday’s start of the new academic year coincides with Nowruz, the Persian New Year, widely celebrated in Afghanistan before the Taliban returned to power but now disapproved by the country’s new rulers.

Millions of adolescent girls are already barred from secondary school.

Academic activist Malala Yousafzai on the Taliban banning women from universities


“The Taliban took everything away from us,” said 15-year-old Sadaf Haidari, a resident of Kabul, who was supposed to be in 11th grade this year. “I’m depressed and broken.”

The ban on girls’ secondary education came into force in March last year, hours after the Ministry of Education reopened schools for both girls and boys.

Taliban leaders – who have banned women from university education – have repeatedly claimed they will reopen secondary schools for girls once “conditions” are met, from funding to reshaping the curriculum on Islamic lines.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban has banned women from studying at universities


The international community has made women’s right to education a key condition in negotiating support and recognition of the Taliban government.

No country has officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan under the Taliban government has been called the “world’s most oppressive country” for women’s rights by the United Nations. Women have been effectively pushed out of public life, removed from most government jobs or paid a fraction of their previous pay to stay at home. They are also banned from parks, fairs, gyms and public baths and must cover up in public.

In a statement released earlier this month to mark International Women’s Day, the UN mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban regime’s “single focus is on imposing rules that effectively keep most women and girls confined to their homes.”

“It is heartbreaking to witness their systematic, deliberate and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere,” said Roza Otunbayeva, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan. statement

Afghanistan: The New Reality

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