Does anyone care about Afghan girls? The school year began without girls in Afghanistan

This week a new school year began in Afghanistan and, despite promises, the Taliban once again prohibited girls from having an education.

The Afghan Ministry of Education began the new school year by banning girls from attending school after sixth grade for the third consecutive year. In a ceremony that women in general were not allowed to attend, Minister of Education Habibullah Agha, said that the ministry is trying to "increase the quality of education in religious and modern sciences as much as possible." The authorities summoned the press to the opening of the academic year but the invitations sent to journalists and agencies also prevented access to women with the following legend: "Due to the lack of a suitable place for the sisters, we apologize to the reporters." Erasing women from the public sphere, from social life and from the human condition seems to be the main objective for the Taliban government, even to the detriment of its economic growth and international recognition.

And despite the fact that, after the withdrawal of the United States and NATO forces from the country in 2021, the Taliban initially promised a moderate government, the group has prohibited women from accessing education, public spaces such as parks, gyms and the vast majority of jobs, brutally affecting the country's economy. Education authorities said that the girls' education as it was went against their strict interpretation of Islamic law, Sharia, and promised that under special conditions for their attendance they would one day return to school. However, in three years they made no progress in creating these conditions and this Wednesday they broke their promise again.

Likewise, the Taliban have been prioritizing Islamic knowledge over basic literacy and numeracy in general education. Human Rights Watch has criticized them for their "abusive" education policies that are harming both boys and girls. In a report released in December, HRW said the damage inflicted on education is profound as qualified teachers, mostly women, have been excluded from education while regressive changes have been introduced into curricula, as well as such as an increase in corporal punishment which led to a drop in attendance.

In addition to closing girls' schools, the Taliban have banned women from civic life in general. Last year, the Taliban cabinet went so far as to ban women's beauty salons. Since NATO and the US lost the war and abruptly left the territory, the emboldened and unpunished Taliban imposed a code that forces women to carry a companion (mahram) to move around and a bloody and suffocating dress code that covers them completely. If a woman or girl violates the imposed restrictions, their male relatives are held responsible, which is why families further restricted the movements of their women for fear of reprisals from the authorities. At the beginning of the regime there were some protests but the Taliban harshly repressed women with beatings and torture, and those arrested, including victims of abuse, were accused of "moral corruption."

Varias personas participaron en noviembre de 2022 en una marcha en Londres por la libertad de las mujeres y niñas afganas organizada por Action for Afghanistan.
Varias personas participaron en noviembre de 2022 en una marcha en Londres por la libertad de las mujeres y niñas afganas organizada por Action for Afghanistan (Cordon Press)

The dismantling of previous government structures and the transformation of the judicial system to the exclusive application of sharia reduced the safeguards that women previously had. Rates of domestic violence and forced marriages increased exponentially, while Taliban authorities punish women for reporting such violence. The Taliban created the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which issues decrees restricting social norms and governs the morals of citizens. Of the edicts issued, more than 70% are specifically directed at women, with a fundamental obsession with restricting their rights and violating every sign of humanity and dignity, even when these regulations bring the government problems with international organizations.

This same month, #8M, "women's day," was pompously celebrated throughout the West with thousands of demonstrations. It is very easy to overact rebellion and complain where there are no legal differences and equality before the law governs. But no one shouted in "women's month" for Afghan girls. There were no marches for these girls abandoned to abuse and the cruelest denigration. Not a flag flew for them, nor a banner that makes them visible in any gender ministry in the world. Those who fill their mouths talking about women's equality are incapable of denouncing the culture that is erasing them as human beings. Hypocrisy imposed its comfortable silence on marketing feminism. And this week a new school year began without girls in Afghanistan, because those girls don't matter to anyone.