‘Shameful’: UN denounces exclusion of Afghan girls from school


UN is increasingly concerned about the ‘tragic’ policy and other restrictions on basic freedoms will contribute to a deepening of the economic crisis.

The United Nations has called on Afghan Taliban rulers to reopen schools for girls in grades seven to 12, calling the anniversary of their exclusion from high school “shameful”.

The UN said on Sunday that it is increasingly concerned that the policy, along with other restrictions on fundamental freedoms, will contribute to deepening the country’s economic crisis through increased insecurity, poverty and isolation.

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

A year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, teenage girls are still banned from school and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public.

“A year of lost knowledge and opportunities that they will never get back,” UN chief Antonio Guterres tweeted Sunday. “Girls belong in school. The Taliban must let them back in.”

The Taliban have failed to deliver on several promises to allow girls to return to the classroom.

The ban is aimed at female students in grades 7 to 12 and mainly affects girls aged 12 to 18. The Taliban have reopened secondary schools for boys and instructed girls to stay at home.

The UN estimates that more than a million girls were banned from high school in the past year.

“The continued exclusion of girls from high school has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world. It is very damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself,” Potzel said.

‘Denied human rights’

On the occasion of the Sunday anniversary, 50 girls sent a letter titled A Year of Darkness: A Letter of Afghan Girls to heads of Muslim countries and other world leaders. The girls come from the capital Kabul, the eastern province of Nangarhar and the northern province of Parwan.

“Over the past year, we have been denied human rights such as the right to receive education, the privilege to work, the freedom to live with dignity, freedom, mobility and expression, and the right to make decisions for ourselves,” Azadi, an 18-year-old 11th grade student from Kabul, said in the letter.

The girls mentioned in the letter only gave their first names. The UN said that denying education violates the most fundamental rights of girls and women. The global body said it increases the risk of marginalization, violence, exploitation and abuse of girls and is part of a wider range of discriminatory policies and practices targeting women and girls since the de facto authorities took power in the summer of 2021.

The UN again called on the Taliban to reverse the series of measures it has put in place to limit Afghan women and girls’ enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

According to UNICEFthree million girls cannot complete their secondary education because of the restrictions imposed by the Taliban.

Since returning to power, the Taliban have struggled to rule as they remain diplomatically isolated. The West’s freeze of billions of dollars of Afghan funds and the country’s exclusion from global financial institutions contributed largely to the near collapse of the country’s aid-dependent economy.

More than half of Afghanistan’s 39 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and six million are at risk of famine, according to the UN.

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