Excluding Afghan girls from high schools ‘disgraceful’

Excluding Afghan girls from high schools ‘disgraceful’

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The United Nations on Sunday called on Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to reopen schools for girls in grades 7-12, calling the anniversary of their exclusion from high school “disgraceful.”

The UN said it is increasingly concerned that the policy, along with other restrictions on basic freedoms, will deepen the country’s economic crisis in the form of more insecurity, poverty and isolation.

“This is a tragic, shameful anniversary that is completely avoidable,” said Markus Potzel, acting head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

A year after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, hardliners appear to be gaining ground on a Taliban-led government. Teenage girls are still banned from school and women must cover themselves from head to toe in public, with only their eyes visible. The religious group failed to fulfill various promises that would have allowed the girls to return to the classroom. The ban targets grades 7-12, mainly affecting girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

The Taliban reopened high schools for boys while instructing girls to stay at home. The UN estimates that more than a million girls have been prevented from attending high school in the past year.

“There is no credible justification for the continued exclusion of girls from high school and there is no parallel anywhere in the world. It seriously harms the generation of girls and the future of Afghanistan itself,” said Potzel, who is also the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.

To mark the anniversary on Sunday, 50 girls sent a letter titled “Year of Darkness: A letter from Afghan girls to the leaders of Muslim countries and other world leaders.” The girls are from the capital Kabul, eastern Nangarhar province and northern Parwan province.

“Over the past year, we have been denied human rights, such as the right to education, the privilege to work, the freedom to live with dignity, the freedom, the freedom of movement and speech, and the right to decide and decide for us myself,” Azadi, an 18-year-old 11th grade student from Kabul, said in the letter. The girls named in the letter only gave their first names.

The UN said the denial of education violates the most basic rights of girls and women. The global body said it increases the risk of marginalisation, violence, exploitation and abuse against girls and is part of a wider range of discriminatory policies and practices aimed at women and girls since de facto authorities in power in the summer of 2021.

The United Nations has again called on the Taliban to reverse the series of measures they have introduced to restrict the access of Afghan women and girls to their basic rights and freedoms.

Since coming to power, the Taliban has struggled to govern and remain isolated internationally. The economic downturn has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and hunger as the flow of foreign aid has slowed.

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