On January 24, the Taliban marked International Education Day. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted:
“The Ministry of Education assures its people and the international community that the Islamic Emirate considers education essential for every Afghan.”
That is false.
In fact, immediately after seizing control of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban banned girls from secondary schools.
Families wishing to educate their daughters, and teachers willing to risk their lives and freedom, have had to create a small network of secret schools across the country.
Girls study in bedrooms, basements and living rooms turned into classes, VOA’s Sarah Zaman reported on January 22.
In December, the Taliban imposed further restrictions. These indefinitely barred female students from higher education. The BBC reported that the ban might be lifted later.
Ismail Mashal, a professor who runs a private university in Kabul, told the BBC that before the ban, his school had some 450 female students taking classes in journalism, economics, engineering, and computer sciences.
But the Taliban education ministry deemed those subjects unsuitable for women under Islamic law and Afghan culture, Mashal said.
Mashal adapted by switching to distance education, delivering video lectures.
"I know what I am doing is risky,” he told the BBC. “Every morning, I say goodbye to my mother and wife and tell them I may not return. But I am ready and willing to sacrifice my life for 20 million Afghan women and girls and for the future of my two children."
The education ban is not the only restriction the Taliban have imposed on women and girls.
On January 20, a United Nations delegation that visited Afghanistan reported: “Women and girls have also been ordered to stop using parks, gyms, public bath houses, and banned from most areas of the workforce, together with other restrictions on their freedom of movement, in line with the authorities’ interpretation of Sharia [Islamic] law.”
The delegation’s leader said the Taliban had also banned women from working for domestic and international nongovernmental organizations that provide aid to millions of Afghan women.
That affects an estimated 11 million vulnerable Afghan women, as they are not permitted to accept help from male workers, including medical and hygiene supplies, cash and food for their impoverished families.
“This comes amid deadly sub-zero temperatures, which have so far killed more than 100 people across the country, and as millions of people face acute hunger and crippling power cuts,” the U.K.’s Telegraph reported on January 24.
The Taliban also prohibit women from serving as judges. At least two female judges have been killed by the Taliban, and others left the country. Some 70 remain trapped in Afghanistan, their lives in danger, First Post, an Indian news site, reported on January 25.
The U.S. State Department has condemned Taliban disregard for women rights. Spokesman Nick Price has said officials are working to develop a response that doesn’t worsen humanitarian conditions in the country.