Women demonstrate for their rights during a gathering for National Teachers Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 5, 2021.
© 2021 AP Photo/Ahmad Halabisaz
“I want to go to school and become an independent woman who chooses and decides for her life,” 16-year-old Nasiba told me. “If I am educated, men wouldn’t dare to interfere but if I am not, they will decide my whole life for me.” She lives in Kabul and has not been able to return to her secondary school since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15. Her name and that of others quoted are pseudonyms.
The Taliban have effectively banned girls from education past primary school by ordering secondary schools, which include grades seven and up, to reopen only for boys. Although Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on September 21 that the Ministry of Education was preparing for “the education of high school girls as soon as possible,” only a few secondary schools have reopened in some provinces. The ban in most of the country and an unclear Taliban policy makes millions of girls understandably fearful for their education. Even if girls’ schools reopened immediately, their studies, including preparation for exams, plans to graduate, and university applications, have already suffered a severe setback. And the harm increases every day.
Women across Afghanistan continue to protest, asking for schools to reopen and for women’s right to work. “If the Taliban have really changed, they should prove it by letting our daughters go to school and us to go work,” said Zainab, a friend in Kabul who participated in one of these protests.
Roya, 18, was supposed to graduate from high school this year and was preparing for the university entrance examination. “I always dreamed of being a lawyer and had been preparing to get into law school,” she said. “But now with the Taliban taking over I don’t think I have a future.”
Education is a fundamental human right, but in the past two months it has been taken away from millions of Afghan girls. The Taliban should reopen secondary schools for girls across the country without further delay. Nasiba and Roya know that their futures, and the future of Afghanistan, depend on it.