Taliban signals girls can return to school after denying them education beyond grade 6

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The Taliban has signaled that girls will be allowed to return to school this week as worn-torn Afghanistan reopens its classrooms for “all” students. 

Afghanistan’s Taliban-run Education Ministry announced Monday that schools for all students will start on Wednesday. The statement did not mention girls explicitly, but it says the education ministry “assures the nation it is committed to the right to education of all its citizens.”

FILE: Afghan girls students attend school classes in a primary school in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, March 27, 2021. 

FILE: Afghan girls students attend school classes in a primary school in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, March 27, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

The statement also said – without elaborating – that the ministry is “working hard to eliminate all kinds of discrimination.” It urges all Afghans to send their children to schools or madrassas, which are religious educational facilities.

Girls have been denied an education beyond Grade 6 since the Taliban swept back into power last August. But the ministry’s statement marked the clearest sign yet that girls will be allowed back in school. 

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The international community has been relentless in urging Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to allow girls to return to school. Earlier this year, the new rulers opened up universities for women, although classes are gender-segregated. 

Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province northeastern of Afghanistan, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. 

Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province northeastern of Afghanistan, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)

The U.N. has welcomed the Taliban’s plans to reopen schools for boys and girls, calling it necessary for students to reach their full potential. 

After sweeping back into power last August following America’s chaotic end to 20 years of war in Afghanistan, a nervous international community watched as the Taliban sent women home from work and closed public universities in all but 10 provinces. They allowed only boys to attend school beyond Grade 7.

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The Taliban have not re-imposed the burqa, though women are required to wear the hijab, which can be any covering including a large shawl provided the head is covered. 

Afghan Shiite children and women kiss the holy mace for blessings during celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian new year, as Taliban soldiers stand guard at the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 21, 2022. 

Afghan Shiite children and women kiss the holy mace for blessings during celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian new year, as Taliban soldiers stand guard at the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 21, 2022. 
(AP Photos/Mohammed Shoaib Amin)

The Taliban rulers have in some cases allowed women back to work in the health and education ministries and at Kabul’s international airport. They have also returned to work in the private sector and for non-government aid organizations though in other ministries women are not back on the job.

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When the Taliban last ruled, music was banned, girls were denied education and women were not allowed to work and were required to wear the all-encompassing burqa. The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition, but returned to power after the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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