The Taliban on Wednesday reversed their vow to allow girls’ high schools to open this month, The New York Times reports.
The Taliban after their takeover of Kabul vowed to liberalize somewhat in hopes of securing foreign investment and aid but Wednesday’s decision severely undermined any progress the ruling faction has made in seeking billions in humanitarian aid.
Taliban officials said girls’ schools, which were permitted under the previous government, would remain closed until officials determined plans to reopen them in accordance with Islamic law.
The news was a big blow to over a million high school-aged girls that planned to return to class this week.
“Education was the only way to give us some hope in these times of despair, and it was the only right we hoped for, and it has been taken away,” 15-year-old Zahra Rohani told the Times.
The announcement came as a shock after the country’s Ministry of Education announced that all girls’ schools would reopen on Wednesday.
Many girls traveled to school on Wednesday and some briefly reopened before the announcement.
Mehrin Ekhitiari, a 15-year-old in Kabul, said her classmates had excitedly returned to class before their teacher announced the news.
“My hope was revived after eight months of waiting,” she said, before the announcement “dashed all my dreams.”
Younger girls to be allowed to return:
A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said that girls in sixth grade or below would be allowed to go to school but said there were still policies to be ironed out for high schools, including a lack of religious uniforms for girls and a lack of female teachers.
The move came just over a week before a United Nations conference where the UN hoped to raise money to provide humanitarian aid to the country.
“It creates a lot of challenges in terms of how is the world going to engage with them and try to stop Afghans from starving when there’s no space to negotiate and convince the Taliban to shave off even the sharpest edges of their rights abuses,” said Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.
The UN condemned the announcement on Wednesday.
“I’m deeply troubled by multiple reports that the Taliban are not allowing girls above grade 6 to return to school,” tweeted Ian McCary, the chief of mission for U.S. Embassy Kabul. “This is very disappointing & contradicts many Taliban assurances & statements.”