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Taliban official says Afghan girls of all ages permitted to study in religious schools

A Taliban official says Afghan girls of all ages are allowed to study in Islamic religious schools that are traditionally boys-only

Via AP news wire
Thursday 21 December 2023 16:57 GMT
Afghanistan Education Taliban
Afghanistan Education Taliban (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Afghan girls of all ages are permitted to study in religious schools, which are traditionally boys-only, a Taliban official said Thursday.

A day earlier, U.N. special envoy Roza Otunbayeva told the Security Council and reporters that the United Nations was receiving “more and more anecdotal evidence” that girls could study at the Islamic schools known as madrassas.

But Otunbayeva said it wasn’t clear what constituted a madrassa, if there was a standardized curriculum that allowed modern education subjects, and how many girls were able to study in the schools.

The Taliban have been globally condemned for banning girls and women from education beyond sixth grade, including university. Madrassas are one of the few options for girls after sixth grade to receive any kind of education.

Mansor Ahmad, a spokesman at the Education Ministry in the Afghan capital Kabul, said in messages to The Associated Press that there are no age restrictions for girls at government-controlled madrassas. The only requirement is that girls must be in a madrassa class appropriate to their age.

“If her age is not in line with the class and (the age) is too high, then she is not allowed,” said Ahmad. “Madrassas have the same principles as schools and older women are not allowed in junior classes.” Privately run madrassas have no age restrictions and females of all ages, including adult women, can study in these schools, according to Ahmad.

There are around 20,000 madrassas in Afghanistan, of which 13,500 are government-controlled. Private madrassas operate out of mosques or homes, said Ahmad. He did not give details on how many girls are studying in the country's madrassas or if this number increased after the bans.

Otunbayeva addressed the Security Council on the one-year anniversary of the Taliban banning women from universities. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education.

Higher education officials in Kabul were unavailable for comment Thursday on when or if the restrictions would be lifted, or what steps the Taliban are taking to make campuses and classrooms comply with their interpretation of Islamic law.

Afghanistan’s higher education minister, Nida Mohammed Nadim, said last December that the university ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders and because he believed some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam.

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