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Afghanistan: a new school year without girls

The start of the school year took place on Wednesday in Afghanistan, for the third year without girls in secondary education, which is prohibited to them by the Taliban authorities.

The Ministry of Education announced on Tuesday this start of the school year for primary and secondary schools, on the first day of the Afghan calendar year.

Less than a year after their return to power, the Taliban banned girls from attending secondary school in March 2022, making Afghanistan the only country in the world where their education is prohibited after primary school.

“For more than 900 days, girls over 12 have been banned from school”, lamented on X the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Manua ).

Manua called on the Taliban government to put an end to “this unjustifiable and harmful ban”, saying that “education is essential to peace and prosperity” .

“The school year (…) will begin in all provinces when the bell will ring at a ceremony” organized at the Amani school, in the capital Kabul, the Ministry of Education announced on Tuesday.

It is in this large school that the school year in Afghanistan is traditionally launched.

Students in black and white uniforms stood in a row in front of the school entrance in the morning, carrying small flags of the Islamic Emirate in the same colors, as local officials arrived, noted a photographer from the 'AFP.

Coverage of this ceremony had been explicitly prohibited to female journalists by the ministry.

The universities, from which women were banned in December 2022, have already recently returned to school.

Afghanistan: a new school year without girls

Students hold the Taliban flag, lined up to welcome local authorities, during a back-to-school ceremony, at the Amani school in Kabul, March 20, 2024 in Afghanistan © AFP – Wakil KOHSAR

Women, now banned from sports, hammams, museums, parks or beauty salons, and whose access to employment has been very restricted, have gradually been erased from public space under the Taliban administration.

The Taliban imposed an ultra-rigorous interpretation of Islam of which women are the primary targets, in the name of a policy decried by the United Nations as “gender apartheid”.

The fate of women is the major obstacle to diplomatic relations with the international community for Afghanistan, whose government is not recognized by any country.

– “Half of society” –

Zuhal Shirzad, aged 18, had to leave secondary school three years ago and sees this return to school with sadness, which she should have completed her final year before heading to university.

Afghanistan: a new school year without girls

A young Afghan woman studies at home in Kabul on March 24, 2022. © AFP – Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN

“It's been almost three years since I've been able to go to school. I've been close to depression,” said the young girl, interviewed in Kabul by AFP. “It's very hard for me that boys my age study and I don't. It's gender discrimination.”

But “I won't give up never my dreams,” she adds. “If schools do not reopen (to young girls), I will continue to study online to become a businesswoman.”

Online courses exist, but they are reserved for adolescent girls with access to the internet and do not prevent them from falling behind academically compared to boys, while desocializing them.

Afghanistan: a new school year without girls

Students on the first day of the start of the school year, at a private school in Khost, March 20, 2024 in Afghanistan © AFP – –

Mudasir, a fourth grade student in the town of Khost (east) told AFP that girls “should see their rights recognized within the framework of Islam” and that “they could go to school (totally ) covered with the hijab”.

At 15, Faiz Ahmad Nohmani, who entered third grade in a private establishment in Herat (west), is “really sorry that girls don't come to school.”

“Today when I arrived, I would have liked our sisters to come to school too , because they represent half of society,” he confided to AFP. But “they stayed at home. They should study like us.”

Afghanistan: a new school year without girls

Students in class on the first day of the school year, March 20, 2024 in Herat, Afghanistan © AFP – Mohsen KARIMI

Ali Ahmad Mohammadi, an 18-year-old final year student in Herat, is also aware of how lucky he is to study.

” A society of illiterates will always face stagnation,” says the teenager, who then hopes to enter university.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116