The Taliban have announced that high schools for girls will remain closed, backtracking from previous pledges that the schools would reopen and earning international condemnation.
Education and most employment for females was banned by the Taliban when they ruled over Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, but since regaining control of the country last year the group had seemed to be taking a softer approach to the issue.
The u-turn took many by surprise, with a number of girls knowing nothing of the decision until they excitedly turned up at schools just to be sent away in tears.
“We all became totally hopeless when the principal told us, she was also crying,” Reuters cites an unnamed student as saying.
The move was met with universal condemnation. The Foreign ministers of Canada, France, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union’s High Representative jointly released a statement calling for a reversal of the decision.
“We call on the Taliban urgently to reverse this decision, which will have consequences far beyond its harm to Afghan girls. Unreversed, it will profoundly harm Afghanistan`s prospects for social cohesion and economic growth, its ambition to become a respected member in the community of nations, and the willingness of Afghans to return from overseas” the statement read.
The announcement flies in the face of rhetoric from the Taliban since their return to power. Allowing access to education for girls has been one of the key policy requirements of any potential international recognition of the regime’s legitimacy, and until the last-minute change of heart it appeared that Afghan leaders were willing to do so in order to cement the organization’s place in the international community.
The Taliban has failed to give any reason for the one-eighty, releasing a vague statement that failed to clearly state whether schools would be opening their doors to girls or not.
“The Ministry of Education once again assures our nation that it is fully committed to providing the educational rights of all our compatriots.” Afghan media outlet Tolo News quoted Taliban education official Aziz Ahmad Rayan as saying.