(Photo credit: New York Times)
Only a few hours after schools re-opened in Afghanistan on 23 March, Taliban officials ordered the closure of girls’ schools above the 6th grade.
The Taliban-run Bakhtar News Agency stated the closure is due to the need to redesign school uniforms that reflect Islamic values.
Reports indicate that, before the closure, the schools were already adhering to the Islamic code of gender separation, but Taliban officials deemed this insufficient, closing the schools once more until officials sort out the alleged issues.
Afghan girls were long anticipating their return to school but arrived to find locked doors, leaving many students in tears.
On 23 March, a Turkish foreign ministry statement expressed regret over the closure of schools for girls, stating that education for all students, including girls, is the expectation of the Afghan people.
“We call on the Interim Government of Afghanistan to allow girls of all ages to partake in education in an inclusive manner as soon as possible first and foremost for the benefit of the Afghan people,” the Turkish statement said.
Taliban officials had previously pledged to uphold the rights of women, in line with Islamic law.
Following the dissolution of the Taliban in the 2000s, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran forged ties with more moderate factions of the Taliban to boost their power.
These factions make up the current Taliban leadership, which has led many to hope that Taliban pledges to uphold the rights of religious minorities and women would be implemented.
Iran and China have also made it clear they are monitoring the Taliban’s adherence to these pledges as a condition for partnership, including in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
However, this latest move may affect the trust and expectations of Afghanistan’s partners in West Asia, especially Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, ruled under Islamic law, allows all women to seek quality education under protocols that include gender separation.
The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei has emphasized the importance of educating women, stating that preventing girls from education is “against Islam.”
“I advise families to let their daughters study. May God forbid that parents, on the pretext of religious observances, think they should stop their daughters from continuing their higher education. No, religion has not said so. Religion does not make any difference between girls and boys when it comes to receiving an education. If your son is following his higher education, let your daughter pursue the same.”
On 9 March, Iran’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zahra Ershadi called on the Taliban to honor the rights of women.