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We cannot ignore the bravery of Afghan girls who are being denied the right to an education

We cannot ignore the bravery of Afghan girls who are being denied the right to an education
Shabnam Nasimi

Shabnam Nasimi

3 min read

Afghanistan is the only country in the world where you would see this headline – girls are banned from going to school.

The Taliban promised to open all schools—including girls’ secondary schools—two days ago. Girls arrived in uniform on Monday, with backpacks and books only to be turned away. After more than 180 days, return to school for young girls has been postponed again.

Yesterday, my cousins in Kabul arrived at their school with immense excitement only to be ordered to return home with a despicable excuse by the Taliban that they’re still deciding on the girls’ school uniform. What an injustice, and cruel U-turn on its announcement that all schools would re-open.

Over the last seven months, the Taliban has not kept one promise

One must keep in mind, however, that girls in middle and high school education in Afghanistan were already gender-segregated for past two decades, and almost entirely taught by female teachers. There was nothing that needed fixing when it comes to girls’ education to be in line with Sharia law.  

But as I watched a video of a young girl crying to her mother go viral, where she shed tears saying, "Mum, they didn't let me enter my school. They're saying girls aren't allowed" – my heart broke.

The continuation of ban on secondary school girls, however, has been no surprise to me. Many of us knew that the Taliban are yet again fooling the people of Afghanistan and the international community. Over the last seven months, they have not kept one promise.

But what does surprise me is that the West continues to believe Taliban promises.

The only indication of a 'new Taliban' is a much more sophisticated and strategic public relations approach for masking ongoing human rights violations. The Taliban are not fit to govern. They are not fit to serve a nation. To those who continue to lobby on behalf of the Taliban and seek to normalise and legitimise a group that has no place in modern-day Afghanistan, let alone fit to govern or serve a nation - for shame.

Even if schools end up opening for girls at some point, it would not be time to breathe a sigh of relief or congratulate the Taliban for very slightly retreating on just one of their many human rights violations. We would need to monitor whether schools are actually open, what the environment is like inside the schools, what students are being taught (i.e. curriculum), whether it is safe for girls to attend. Opening schools is meaningless without quality education.

The Directorate of Education in Kapisa province has stated that they need more than 1,700 more teachers, but if you don't let teenage girls return to school the shortage will only continue and eventually grow. Women by far comprise the highest number of teachers in Afghanistan.

This is not the time to simply stand in solidarity. We need to fund initiatives that actually target the education of women and girls in Afghanistan. They need spaces to learn, computers, equipment, teachers’ salaries, internet, and transportation.

We cannot ignore the bravery of women and girls protesting against the Taliban. These girls have been locked out of school and denied their basic human rights to have an education.

If feminist foreign policy does not mean standing up for women and girls in Afghanistan, it begs the question of what feminist foreign policy actually means?


Shabnam Nasimi is policy advisor to the minister for refugees.

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Read the most recent article written by Shabnam Nasimi - What does the girls’ education ban in Afghanistan mean for the world?


Foreign affairs