ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United Nations on Sunday called on Afghan Taliban leaders to reopen schools for girls in grades 7-12, calling the anniversary of their expulsion from high school “shameful.”
The UN has said it is increasingly concerned that the policy, along with other restrictions on basic freedoms, will help deepen the country’s economic crisis in the form of greater insecurity, poverty and isolation.
“This is a tragic, shameful and completely preventable anniversary,” said Markus Potzel, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.
A year after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, hardliners appear to dominate the Taliban-led government. Teenage girls are still excluded from school and women must be covered from head to toe in public, with only their eyes visible. The religious group has failed to fulfill various promises to allow the girls to return to class. The ban targets grades 7-12, mostly affecting girls ages 12 to 18.
The Taliban reopened high schools for boys while ordering girls to stay at home. The UN estimates that more than a million girls have been excluded from secondary school in the past year.
“The continued exclusion of girls from secondary school has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world. It is deeply damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself,” said Pozel, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.
To mark Sunday’s anniversary, 50 girls sent a letter titled “A Year of Darkness: A Letter from Afghan Girls to Heads of Muslim Countries and Other World Leaders.” The girls are from the capital Kabul, the eastern province of Nangarhar and the northern province of Parwan.
“In the past year, we have been denied human rights, such as the right to get an education, the privilege to work, the freedom to live with dignity, freedom, mobility and speech, and the right to decide and decide for ourselves.” Azadi, an 18-year-old Grade 11 student from Kabul, said in the letter. The girls named in the letter gave only their first names.
The UN said the denial of education violates the most fundamental rights of girls and women. The world body said it increases the risk of marginalization, violence, exploitation and abuse against girls and is part of a wider range of discriminatory policies and practices targeting women and girls since the de facto authorities took power in the summer of 2021.
The UN has again called on the Taliban to reverse a raft of measures they have introduced to restrict the enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms by Afghan women and girls.
Since taking power, the Taliban have struggled to govern and remain internationally isolated. An economic downturn has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and hunger as the flow of foreign aid has slowed.