“Not being able to study is like a death penalty”: the despair of girls in Afghanistan after the return of the Taliban to power



The fears seem to come true.

A large group of Afghan teenagers have told the BBC of their growing despair as they continue to be excluded from school more than three months after the Taliban take over.

Not being able to study is like a death penalty“Says Meena **, 15 years old.

She says she and her friends have been feeling lost and confused since the closure of their school in the northeastern province of Badakhshan.

“We have nothing to do apart from housework… we are just frozen in one place,” says 16-year-old Laila, whose school in Tajar province closed the day the Taliban regained power in August.

BBC interviews with students and principals from 13 provinces show girls’ frustration at remaining excluded from the high school, despite the Taliban’s assurances that they could resume their studies “as soon as possible.”

The teachers, most of whom have not been paid since June, say the situation is affecting the well-being of girls, with one blaming school closures for the marriage of three of his female students of minors.

“The students are really upset, they are suffering mentally. I try to give them hope, but it is difficult because they are exposed to so much sadness and disappointment, ”says a Kabul principal, who keeps in touch with her students via WhatsApp.

Teachers also reported a worrying drop in attendance among those girls who were allowed to return to class.

According to them, increasing poverty and concern for their safety make families reluctant to send the youngest to school.

Graphic impact of the return of the Taliban to school attendance



The Taliban have previously avoided confirming that this is a total ban.

But in an interview with the BBC, the acting Deputy Minister of Education, Abdul Hakim Hemat, confirmed that girls will not be allowed to attend secondary school until a new education policy is approved next year.

Despite this, some girls’ schools have been reported to have reopened after negotiating with local Taliban officials.

Afghanistan provinces map reopened schools


In the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, the director of one of them told the BBC that there are no problems and that the girls attend classes normally.

But another student from the same city said that a group of armed Taliban fighters approached the schoolgirls in the streets and told them to make sure their hair and mouths weren’t visible.

As a result, about a third of his class had stopped attending school.

“We feel like we are in danger when we leave home. People don’t smile. The situation is not calm. We are trembling with fear ”, he says.

Complicated situation

The Taliban government ordered the boys to return to secondary school in September, but did not mention the girls.

School principals in three different provinces told the BBC that they had been reopened, but were told by local officials that they were closed without explanation. one day later.

The female students kept coming every day and staying at the door, asking when they would be allowed log insaid one.


Schools reopened only for girls in primary school.

Laila, who wants to be a midwife or a doctor, says that she keeps her school supplies and uniforms clean and tidy in her room, without allowing anyone to touch them, waiting for the moment when she can use them again.

“When I see my clothes, my books, my scarf and my shoes, all new, just stored in my closet without being worn, I get very angry. I never wanted to stay home, ”he says.

Meena wants to be a surgeon, but doubts that she will be allowed to continue her studies.

He remembers lining up on the school playground and laughing with his friends, where they sang the national anthem before going to lessons.

“Whenever I think of those moments, I feel sad and desperate for our future“, dice.

Hemat assures that the current situation is a temporary delay while the government guarantees a “safe environment” for girls to go to school.

However, it highlights the need to segregate the classes of girls and boys, something that is already common throughout Afghanistan.

Graphic attendance of girls to school in Afghanistan


Permanent effect

Girls and women were banned from schools and universities during the last Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001.

This year’s closures have already had a permanent effect on the lives of some girls, according to the testimony of a director in the southeastern province of Gazni.

“At least three of our girls aged 15 and under have been married since the Taliban took power,” he said.

UNICEF has said it is deeply concerned by reports that child marriage is on the rise in Afghanistan.



A principal in the central province of Gaur says the issue of school closings was irrelevant compared to the other problems faced by her students.

“I think a lot of our students are going to die… They don’t have enough food and can’t keep warm in the winter. They cannot imagine poverty ”, he relates.

* Additional information from the BBC Afghan service

** All interviewees’ names have been changed to protect their identities.

BBC Mundo


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