‘Education is our right’: Dozens of Afghan women protest Taliban’s decision to keep them out of school

US hopes Taliban will reverse the decision as protesters say they’re ‘willing to die’ for their rights

Stuti Mishra
Sunday 27 March 2022 10:56 BST
Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul demanding that high schools be reopened for girls
Afghan women and girls take part in a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Kabul demanding that high schools be reopened for girls (AFP via Getty Images)

Dozens of women and girls in Afghanistan have staged a protest in Kabul demanding their right to education after the Taliban banned girls from going to high school this week.

The protesters stood near the Taliban’s ministry of education in Kabul on Saturday, calling on the extremist group to reopen girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan, as chants of “education is our right” echoed through the street.

The protest was dispersed by armed Taliban fighters, but women who took part in the protest said they were “willing to die” for girls’ right to education. Several organisations are planning more demonstrations to challenge the decision of the hardline regime.

“When it comes to standing up for freedom and the girls who want to go to school, I’m willing to die,” a teacher who took part in the protest told the BBC. “We are here for the rights of our daughters to get an education. Without that right, we might as well be dead already.”

Women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj went on Afghanistan‘s Tolo TV to ask: “How do we as a nation trust you with your words anymore? What should we do to please you? Should we all die?”

Meanwhile, an Afghan charity called PenPath, which runs dozens of “secret” schools with thousands of volunteers, is planning to stage countrywide protests to demand that the Taliban reverses its order, PenPath founder Matiullah Wesa said.

In a last-minute U-turn earlier this week, the Taliban stopped girls over the age of 11 from going back to school, after issuing an earlier circular that asked “all students” to come to school for the new semester.

The extremist group that banned women from education during its rule in the 1990s, said schools for girls will remain closed until a “comprehensive” and “Islamic” plan for them was drawn up.

Many girls had already reached their schools in the morning after the decision was made. Videos of heartbroken pupils sobbing after returning home circulated on social media.

The move enraged the international community. US special representative for Afghanistan Thomas West cancelled meetings with the Taliban at the Doha Forum on Friday where economic issues were set to be discussed as the humanitarian crisis worsens there.

Calling it a breach of the trust of Afghans, Mr West said he hopes the decision will be reversed. “I believe hope is not lost. I’ve talked to a lot of Afghans here who also believe that. I’m hopeful that we will see a reversal of this decision in the coming days.”

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai also called the move “devastating”, adding that the Taliban is “scared of educated women”.

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