UN chief urges Taliban to reverse ban on girls education

Islamabad, Jan 24, (dpa/GNA) – On the International Day of Education, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, called on the Taliban to “reverse the outrageous and self-defeating ban” on Afghan women and girls’ access to secondary and higher education.

UNESCO dedicated this year’s International Day of Education to girls and women in Afghanistan.

Afghans, mainly women, have stood up for their rights in different forms, including public demonstrations, which are usually suppressed by the Taliban. Male university lecturers resigned, and some male students walked out of their classes in solidarity with their female classmates.

Selgai Sahar, a young Afghan girl who refused to let girls go uneducated by opening a free class in the country’s east, told dpa she was determined to keep going despite the challenges.

“It was a very difficult and painful year like being in a prison,” she described the year with closed schools. “But I will continue my fight, as far as I can.”

Matiullah Wesa, a young civil activist from Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban, said he has established hidden schools for girls and provided education to thousands, with the help of a huge network of volunteers.

Since 2009, when Wesa founded PenPath, he has travelled from district to district in remote areas of the country to promote public awareness of the importance of education to people in the traditional society.

“I have met 40,000 people, and none of them were happy with the Taliban decision. They are disappointed, unhappy and angry. They all want the immediate opening of schools and universities,” he said.

This year, he wants to meet the Taliban supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzad. He said his message is clear: “Education is the only way for Afghanistan to progress.”

He has a message to the world as well: “We need schools, books and backpacks, not rockets, tanks and guns.”

During the last two decades, women’s attendance in Afghanistan’s universities increased by almost 20-fold. But since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, Afghanistan has become the only country on Earth that deprives women of an education.

The Taliban initially banned teenage girls from attending schools beyond grade six. More recently, university education for women was suspended until further notice. The Taliban cited what it claimed were violations of its strict rules for women, including its dress code, in banning women from universities.