Increased Attacks in Afghanistan Target Women and Girls Attending School

Members of the British Afghan diaspora from the minority Hazara tribe protest outside Downing Street on Oct. 12, 2022, in London, England. They are protesting against the continued persecution of the Hazara communities in Afghanistan. (Guy Smallman / Getty Images)

Since the Taliban takeover, Human Rights Watch has documented 16 attacks against Hazaras, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan. In total, the attacks have killed and wounded at least 700 people.

A Taliban attack on Sept. 30 targeted an educational center in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood of Kabul, killing 53 people and injuring more than 110—all recent high school graduates. The majority of the victims were girls and women. Days after the attack, the Taliban violently broke up crowds of women who were protesting against the targeted killings of Hazaras.

Although ISIS-K has taken responsibility for most of the attacks against Hazaras and minorities in Afghanistan, the Taliban has failed to protect religious and ethnic minorities.

According to the learning center’s official statement, about 600 students were taking a mock university entrance exam when gunmen entered the building. Per the new rules of the Taliban, girls and boys sit separately, and classrooms are segregated by a curtain. The suicide bomber targeted the girls’ side, killing 33 people and wounding at least 80.

The recent attack on the Kaaj learning center, a private tutoring center, was the fourth attack directed at schools and learning centers in the Hazara neighborhood since 2018. The same center under another name, Mawoud Academy, was attacked in 2018, leaving 40 dead and 67 wounded.

Now that many public schools are being closed to girls, private schools and tutoring centers are essential for Afghan girls determined to continue their education. The academies and learning centers offer additional scholastic training and help preparing for entrance exams to universities. Students seeking extra assistance from the tutoring centers have dreams and hopes, but many of them will not be able to realize them.

As many Afghan women predicted, the Taliban’s takeover enforced considerable restrictions against women, depriving them of public education, employment, casual social relationships, political participation and equal opportunities to prosper. Millions of Afghan girls are banned by the Taliban authorities from attending schools beyond sixth grade. The Taliban hasn’t yet prevented women from pursuing college-level education, but the regime recently limited what fields they can study.

Despite these significant restrictions on women’s rights and equal opportunities, Afghan women and girls continue to fight back, defying Taliban restrictions.

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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.