Afghanistan | 24 April 2022

Afghanistan: What the Taliban"s approach to girls" schools reveals

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On 17 March 2022, Channel News Asia and a host of other international news agencies published glowing reports on the Taliban"s announcement to officially open secondary schools for girls. However, as reported by Reuters on 23 March 2022, the Taliban has since backed down and reverted to its original policy. World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller comments: "All of the initial reports contained quotes from Afghan teenage girls overjoyed at being allowed to return to higher education after a seven-month hiatus. This reflected the strong emphasis that international observers (particularly from the West) place on the situation of women and girls in education. As could be expected, reports on the Taliban"s reversal of its decision were filled with quotes from devastated girls." Thomas Muller continues: "This to-ing and fro-ing shows at least two things: First, the Taliban is not unified in its policy approach; and secondly, it does not really care about the echo of international donors, given that this drama unfolded shortly before a major international donor conference held on 31 March. It seems that conservative elements in the Afghan government are dominant, at least for the time-being. Although details in reports about how the U-turn came to pass vary, it is clear that such a decision had to be taken by the highest authority of the Taliban, Emir Hibatullah Akhundzada, himself (Afghan Analysts Network, 29 March 2022). Prospects for finding common ground for compromise with the Taliban rulers are thus slim. They are holding firmly to their vision of "˜true Islamic governance", as outlined in a comprehensive report by the US Institute of Peace entitled "˜Afghan Taliban views on legitimate Islamic governance - Certainties, Ambiguities and areas for Compromise", published on 28 February 2022." Thomas Muller closes: "This is not to say that the Taliban are not trying to reach out to other countries. However, the results of the most recent donor conference on 31 March 2022, which ended with pledges for slightly more than half of what the UN had sought, illustrates the dire situation Afghanistan is in (The Guardian, 31 March 2022). The Chinese foreign minister recently visited the country to see how China could offer assistance and, as a clear sign of goodwill, the Buddhist statues in Bamiyan once destroyed by the Taliban have now been placed under special guard (AP News, 27 March 2022). At the same time, rules which even block families from having a stroll in the park together, show how strict the religiously motivated atmosphere in the country has become (Reuters, 28 March 2022)."


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