Will the Taliban allow full education for girls?

Girls and young women in Afghanistan are supposed to be able to return to school from March, according to Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban government spokesman and deputy culture and information minister. However, educating girls and women is a “question of capacity”, Mujahid said. The Associated Press earlier this month. “We are trying to resolve these issues by next year so that schools and universities can open.”

He clarified that girls and boys should be completely separated in schools. He added that the biggest hurdle is finding or building enough dormitories or hostels for girls to stay in while going to school. In heavily populated areas, he said, it was not enough to have separate classrooms for boys and girls – separate school buildings were needed.

Cause of cautious optimism?

The Taliban will likely at least begin to implement their plan, says Ellinor Zeino, who until the summer headed the Kabul office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank, which has moved its headquarters to Tashkent, Uzbekistan , after the Taliban took power. . From the start, Taliban leaders said they did not oppose education in principle, or even girls’ education, Zeino said. DW.

However, the Taliban has always insisted on two basic conditions: gender segregation in schools as well as in public life, and the curriculum must be in line with Taliban religious beliefs, she said, adding that statements to this effect had remained very vague. “And that seems to be the crux of the matter – girls will probably be able to go to school, the only question is what will they learn there,” she said.

Kambiz Ghawami, executive chairman of the German Committee for World University Service, which advocates education worldwide, is also skeptical of open education policies under the Taliban. The Taliban have said more than once that education is not necessary, Ghawami says DW, adding that, especially for girls and young women, the education situation is grim. Teachers have not been paid for months, he said, so most of them have turned their backs on the profession to earn money elsewhere.

Humanitarian emergency

The political unrest was heightened by the 2021 summer drought, the worst in several decades. The UN estimates that a looming famine could affect up to 23 million people. The emergency is also affecting the education system, Ghawami argued. According to recent UN statistics, eight million children are currently out of school, both girls and boys. In a bid to help, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the United States to release frozen Afghan government assets and the World Bank to release $1.2 billion ($1.07 billion euros) of development aid that donors have blocked for political and human rights. the reasons.

Tying international aid to human rights requirements does not appear to be an option, according to Ghawami, who said it is unlikely to be the way to secure a guaranteed right to education for young people Afghan women. Maybe some Afghan girls will eventually be able to go back to school, he said, “but that doesn’t change the basic situation in the country. The Taliban will try to prevent that as much as possible.”

“There is no other way to reach the Taliban”

Ellinor Zeino advocates a strategy of small steps to improve the educational situation of girls, stressing that a large percentage of the Afghan population is conservative and shares the ideas of the Taliban. “Even in the past 20 years, it has been common in conservative provinces to pull girls out of school between the ages of 12 and 14,” she said. “People don’t want to let them go out in public anymore because to some extent they are under social pressure.”

To protect women and human rights, Zeino recommends seeking Islamic counterarguments and not leaving the authority to interpret scripture to the Taliban. This was the approach of the Adenauer Foundation, she said, adding that human and women’s rights can only be protected in Afghanistan if they can be legitimized or justified in Islamic terms. “This makes it necessary to consider to what extent the scope of Islamic interpretation can be improved or expanded.”

Over the past 20 years, this was an approach rarely taken, she said, stressing the importance of ‘drawing the right conclusions from past mission failure’ by holding further debates on the situation. from the country. “There is no other way to reach the Taliban,” she said, adding that their actions are based on their opinions. “They cannot be subject to political or economic pressure, which is why we have to look for other methods.”

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