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Taliban’s backtracking on girls’ education, ‘deeply damaging’

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Girls at school in Herat, Afghanistan.

Following a U-turn over re-opening girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the UN human rights chief shared her “profound frustration and disappointment” that six months after the Taliban seized power, high school girls have yet to return to the classroom.

“The de facto authorities’ failure to adhere to commitments to reopen schools for girls above the sixth grade – in spite of repeated commitments towards girls’ education, including during my visit to Kabul two weeks ago – is deeply damaging for Afghanistan”, High Commissioner  Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

‘Structural discrimination’

As Afghan citizens suffer the impacts of multiple intersecting crises, the senior UN official described the decision as being of “grave concern.”

Disempowering half of Afghanistan’s population is counterproductive and unjust,” Ms. Bachelet said, adding that “structural discrimination such as this is also deeply damaging for the country’s prospects of future recovery and development.”

She called on the Taliban to “respect all girls’ rights to education and to open schools for all students without discrimination or further delay”.

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Shattered hopes

The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, Catherine Russell, also issued a statement describing the decision as “a major setback for girls and their futures”.

“Millions of secondary-school girls around Afghanistan woke up hopeful today that they will be able to go back to school and resume their learning,” she said.

“It did not take long for their hopes to be shattered.”

According to Ms. Russell the decision meant that an entire generation of adolescent girls is being “denied their right to an education and…robbed of the opportunity to gain the skills they need to build their futures.”

She urged the de facto authorities to honour their commitment to girls’ education without any further delay and appealed to community leaders in every corner of the country to support the education of adolescent girls.

All children deserve to be in school. This is the surest way to put the country on a surer path toward the peace and prosperity that the people of Afghanistan deserve,” said the UNICEF chief.

Decision deplored

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) responded to the news, by tweeting that it “deplores today’s reported announcement by the Taliban that they are further extending their indefinite ban on female students above the 6th grade being permitted to return school.”

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