The Taliban’s Stance on Girls’ Education in Afghanistan

Published On: May 13, 2023Categories: Fact Check, Uncategorized

Two key events unfolded in Afghanistan this week, indicative of the Taliban’s disconcerting views on girls’ education.

The first event, occurring on Monday, May 7th, 2023, witnessed the establishment of a religious school in the Waras district of Bamyan province. This school, offering religious and Quranic studies, welcomed female students of all ages, an apparent deviation from the Taliban’s current policy restricting girls beyond the 6th grade from attending school.

Conversely, the second event in Panjshir saw Sayed Habib Agha, the Taliban’s acting Minister of Education, suggest during a Madraasa opening ceremony that girls’ education should conform to Afghan people’s customs and beliefs. “The conditions, traditions, and beliefs of the people of Afghanistan are clear, and now the conditions for educating girls are unfavorable,” Agha declared.

The event in Bamyan was ostensibly aimed to facilitate religious education for girls of all ages, yet the acting minister’s remarks hinting at the exclusion of girls from schools due to an environment at odds with societal norms sparked extensive criticism. This contradiction is striking. If the Taliban claims to be creating an ‘appropriate environment’ for girls’ education as a reason for their current exclusion from schools, then why does a school offering only religious teaching not face similar restrictions? It’s open to girls of all ages. This inconsistency raises questions: are the objections to girls’ education genuinely based on a lack of an ‘appropriate environment,’ the content of the current curriculum, or possibly something else entirely?

Critics suspect that the oft-repeated assertion—that women cannot return to school until an ‘appropriate environment’ is established—might be a diversionary tactic to delay their return. Within the Taliban, a dominant faction appears to object to girls receiving modern or conventional education, a key pathway towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance. It is becoming increasingly clear that the issue is less about facilitating an appropriate environment and more about resistance to the curriculum and objection to conventional and modern education.

Internal Disagreements within the Taliban: The Fate of Girls’ Educational Rights

Following the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan, girls’ education has been intensely scrutinized. Despite the Taliban’s initial assurances that girls could continue their education, the ensuing reality has been starkly different.

Soon after taking control, the Taliban closed girls’ schools, inciting both domestic and international outcry. This move once again poses the question: Does the Taliban’s restriction on girls’ education stem from a stringent interpretation of religious and cultural norms, or is it a tactic to maneuver international politics in their quest for legitimacy and recognition?

The Taliban’s Ministry of Education responded to the backlash by announcing plans to reopen schools for girls, pending approval from the Taliban Prime Minister. Yet, more than a year later, progress remains elusive, casting a shadow of uncertainty over these plans.

Under the Taliban Regime, educational decisions typically originate in Kandahar, with Kabul having little sway. This dynamic complicates predicting the Taliban’s position on girls’ education. Evident internal divisions within the Taliban further cloud the issue, with some viewing conventional education as mandatory for both genders while others deem it optional, secondary to religious studies.

The Educational Divide: Modern vs. Religious

Interestingly, many girls who have dropped out of mainstream education now attend religious schools, where there are no restrictions on their presence. But, the reluctance to open conventional schools and universities to girls prompts critical questions. Are these restrictions grounded in officials’ interpretations of religious texts, or are they using Afghan traditions as a pretext to deny girls their right to education?

While some Taliban officials and Islamic scholars advocate for reopening girls’ schools and universities, the decision-making circle appears to resist any form of education that is not religious. As these conflicting perspectives continue to collide, the future of girls’ education in Afghanistan hangs precariously in the balance, with its outcome undoubtedly bearing lasting implications for the country’s future.

Key Taliban Figures Opposing Girls’ Education

Within the Taliban, those closest to Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the group’s leader, exhibit the staunchest opposition to girls’ education. Notably, the most influential figures against girls’ education and their presence outside the home include Mawlawi Abdulhakim Haqqani, the Taliban’s chief justice; Sheikh Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, the Taliban’s acting Minister Vice and Virtue; Nida Mohammad Nadeem, acting Ministry of Higher Education; and Sayed Habib Agha, the acting Ministry of Education. Reportedly, these figures embrace a hardline stance to differentiate themselves from those factions within the Taliban that favor engagement with the international community.

The Influence of Kandahar’s Leadership on Grils Education

Numerous sources, among them Western diplomats with close ties to Taliban officials, indicate that the leaders in Kandahar hold stringent views regarding women’s roles in public life, encompassing their rights to education and participation in public offices. Their proximity with the Emir is instrumental in setting the restrictive policies affecting women and girls, and their influence significantly impacts decisions made in Kabul.

Many analysts and reports have begun attributing more moderate and lenient attitudes toward girls’ education to the pragmatic Taliban while associating hardline views with the Kandahar-based Taliban. However, given the continued delays in resolving girls’ education, the confusion over it is lack of an appropriate environment or curriculum content and how the Taliban leverage this issue in their international negotiations raises questions. Is such an attribution genuinely reflective of different factions within the Taliban, or could it be a ploy by the Taliban to sow confusion among the public and also play international actors?

  • Amu TV broadcast an image of Thomas West, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, meeting with the Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, mistakenly calling him the Qatari Foreign Minister. [...]

  • شبکه افغانستان اینترنشنال از گفته‌های مولوی عبدالحمید امام اهل سنت ایران که گفته است مدیران بانک مرکزی ایران از مدیران بانک مرکزی افغانستان مشوره بگیرند، خبری ساخته است. این روحانی اهل سنت ایران روز جمعه [...]

  • In the past two weeks, the Taliban have detained at least nine journalists and media personnel. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has stated that the Taliban have arrested these journalists from six [...]