Mar 23, 2022 - World

Taliban suddenly backtrack on pledge to open schools for all girls

Picture of girls wearing hijabs and backpacks
Girls in Kabul leave their school, which was ordered to close just hours after reopening on March 23. Photo: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban on Wednesday went back on a long-standing pledge to let girls return to high school this week, just hours after the schools reopened, The New York Times reports.

The big picture: The U.S. and other Western countries have been pushing for girls' high schools to reopen as a condition of sending aid to Afghanistan — where around 95% of the population does not have enough to eat, per Human Rights Watch.

  • So far, only girls up to the sixth grade have been allowed to attend school.

State of play: A spokesperson for the Afghan Education Ministry told the Times the Taliban decided not to allow girls in the sixth grade and above return to school because there's a lack of female religious uniforms.

  • The spokesperson also said there are not enough female teachers.

Catch up fast: The Taliban in September reopened high schools but said only male students were allowed to return to class, adding that girls would be able to attend as the security situation allowed.

  • At the time, teachers said that the decision to exclude girls led to them being "depressed," per The Wall Street Journal.

Flashback: Girls were barred from schools and most workplaces when the Taliban was last in power, from 1996 to 2001.

What they're saying: "I’m deeply troubled by multiple reports that the Taliban are not allowing girls above grade 6 to return to school," said Ian McCary, the chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

  • "This is very disappointing and contradicts many Taliban assurances and statements," McCary added.

What to watch: Officials said girls' high schools would remain closed until they figure out a plan to have them reopen under their interpretation of Islamic law, per the Times.

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