Girls arrive at their school in Kabul. The Taliban ordered girls' secondary schools in Afghanistan to shut on March 23 just hours after they reopened. AFP
It seems that the decision has apparently been made in Kandahar, the centre of Taliban, though Kabul is the capital of the country and the national government. It shows that Taliban are not governing the country according to the imperatives of governance, but they are following the ideological diktat of the Taliban leadership located in Kandahar.
It is not yet clear whether closing the education avenue for girls from sixth class onward is a temporary measure and they want to review the decision. The Taliban do not have a firm view in the matter. They are unable to decide whether to allow girls access to education. When they took power after the collapse of the American-supported Ashraf Ghani government, the Taliban had declared that the women would retain their role in society, and this of course included education, but within the Islamic framework. The Wednesday decision of closing the schools for girls has disappointed the girls across the country who had flocked to the schools with eagerness but had to return home in tears.
The Taliban attitude towards women has been a perplexing one when women’s education and participation in public affairs has increased phenomenally in all the Muslim majority countries, especially in the Gulf, and more so in the United Arab Emirates. The Taliban nor their apologists cannot argue that Islam does not allow for women to be educated or to be involved in the working of the polity. The United States has called off its fresh round of talks with the Taliban in Qatar after the sudden decision in Afghanistan to close the schools for girls.
The Taliban government has not yet got diplomatic recognition from any country so far, including its immediate neighbour Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban takeover. The Americans have frozen the Afghan funds and the Taliban had been pleading that the funds should be released. The Americans said that they would release half of the funds for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and half for the victims of September 11, 2001. And it has been hanging fire since then.
Meanwhile, the people of Afghanistan have been suffering immensely as the Afghan economy has collapsed and international aid is getting into the country. Afghanistan has dropped off the world map as it were. There was a flurry of conferences centred around Afghanistan which were held in Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi. The sense of urgency has disappeared.
But the suffering of the Afghan people has not diminished. Russia has lost interest in Afghanistan since its war in Ukraine had begun on February 24. China had been talking with the Taliban leaders but it does not seem to have led to any useful agreement.
Pakistan President Imran Khan, who has been a steadfast supporter of the Taliban, is embroiled in a political war for survival on the home front, and he has not been able to do much to convince the international community to hold the Taliban and Afghanistan.
It would be a sad commentary on the international community, and especially world organisations like the United Nations and its other agencies.
The Afghans need more attention from the world than they have got so far. And it is not necessary that the Taliban should be put in the dock. What is needed is that the world help Afghans and to do so they may have to talk to the Taliban and come to an understanding of how Afghanistan can remain part of the world community.
International media broadcasts — including the Pashto and Persian BBC services, which broadcast in the two languages of Afghanistan — are off the air as of the weekend. So are foreign drama series.
The surprising decision, confirmed by a Taliban official, is bound to disrupt efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
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