ANALYSIS | If the Taliban wants foreign aid, it must let girls ...

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ANALYSIS | If the Taliban wants foreign aid, it must let girls be educated

G-7 nations should commit to funding Afghan schools as before — as long as they remain open to female pupils

Gordon Brown

Taliban leaders ask us to believe that they will not return to the oppression of their pre-2001 rule, when they persecuted women, violated the basic rights of girls and denied them education. Sadly, actions on the ground do not yet bear this out. Conquering fighters have reportedly seized young girls as “wives”. Women are afraid to leave their homes unless clad in full-body burkas and niqabs, and schools are already closing, with girls told that education is not for them.  

In an interview in June, the Taliban leadership called for “separation between girls and boys, women and men, in universities, schools or madrasas”. While they say that girls can, for now, continue with their first three years of education, one Taliban commander stated, ominously, that “our ulema [scholars] will decide whether girls are allowed to go to school or not”. Girls, Taliban negotiators have said, will have to abide by “Islamic injunctions”.

All this puts at risk perhaps the greatest single achievement in Afghanistan in the last 20 years: the meteoric expansion of education from a million to 9.5-million pupils. At the peak, 65% of young girls were attending first grade and 4-million more girls were benefiting from primary or secondary education. Many are now training to be doctors, scientists and lawyers, and are entering professional occupations for the first time.  ..

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