The Taliban Continues to Abandon Girls’ Education

Afghan school children attend class in June 8, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.N. Photo / Fardin Waezi)

At a speaking engagement in Doha last week, the acting foreign minister of the Taliban, Amir Khan Muttaqi, avoided questions about education for women and girls and reiterated the group needs more time on girls’ education—despite international outcry after last month’s decision that schools above sixth grade would only reopen for boys.

Muttaqi used “cultural appropriations” as the argument for not allowing girls above grade six to attend school: “In Afghanistan, there is one thing that the Afghans want and then there is another thing that the international community wants. One of the reasons that it didn’t work over the past 20 years, is that it was against the will of the Afghan people.”

Previously, the group used security as the main reason for not allowing girls to attend schools.

In their decision, Muttaqi and fellow Taliban fighters are disregarding the will of the majority of Afghan society: In surveys done over the past 20 years, an overwhelming majority of the Afghan people in rural and urban areas want education for themselves and their children. In a survey done by the Asia Foundation in 2019, support for women’s educational opportunities was at 86.6 percent. The same survey showed 76 percent of respondents supported women’s right to employment.

Access to education and opportunities to women were considered some of the top achievements of the past 20 years in Afghanistan. And over the course of the negotiations between the U.S., the Taliban and the Afghan government, the Taliban said they will allow girls to study, women to work and that they did not intend to “monopolize” power.

The group’s leaders today insist their agreement with the U.S. remains valid. But after two months in power, the Taliban continues to violate the commitments they made in the agreement with the U.S. and appears determined to weaponize women’s education and employment.

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Makhfi Azizi is the director of the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has been working with the foundation in this capacity for two years and works on issues of human rights, peace and security. Makhfi is dedicated to women’s equality, peace and democracy.