Taliban Renege on Promise to Open Afghan Girls’ Schools


“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 United Nations and the United States condemned the decision 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, currently operating out of Doha, Qatar. “This is very disappointing & contradicts many Taliban assurances & statements.”

Many Afghan girls had waited for months to hear whether they would be allowed to return to school, after the Taliban seized control of the country. When schools reopened in September for grades seven through 12, Taliban officials told only male students to report for their studies, saying that girls would be allowed to return after security improved and enough female teachers could be found to keep classes fully segregated by sex.

Later, Taliban officials insisted that Afghan girls and women would be able to go back to school in March, and many Western officials seized on that promise as a deadline that would have repercussions for the Taliban’s efforts to eventually secure international recognition and the lifting of at least some sanctions.

In recent months, the Taliban had also come under mounting pressure to permit girls to attend high school from international donors, aid from which has helped keep Afghanistan from plunging further into a humanitarian catastrophe set off by the collapse of the former government and Western sanctions that crippled the country’s banking system.

One video posted on social media on Wednesday showed a high school student in Kabul breaking down into tears as a local television reporter asked her about how she felt after hearing the announcement that she could not return to school.

“I swear to God I wept, but today I was very upset. What should I say? I cannot say anything. What do we do with them?” she responded, referring to the Taliban.

Safiullah Padshah reported from Kabul and Christina Goldbaum from Dubai. Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Houston.


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