In My View
Afghanistan becomes the only country denying education to girls
Last Sunday marked a sad milestone for the Afghan girls. The day completed one full year of the ban on their education denying them a fundamental human right in their own country. The Taliban have kept them out of school even though they promised that they would never interfere with the education of Afghan girls.
With this irrational policy of the Taliban, Afghanistan has now become the only country in the world where education of girls is prohibited. And all Afghan girls from 7 to 12 grades have been staying home since September 18 last year with no idea whether or not they will be able to go back to school ever again in the future. For the Taliban, a promise made is not a promise kept.
So the girls are home and their schools are locked in Afghanistan. The acting education minister of the country Noorullah Munir recently made a ridiculous claim that "the parents do not want their daughters to go to school." Will anybody believe him? So, his comment drew sharp and quick responses from many Afghan parents. They rather asked the Taliban regime to immediately reopen girls' schools across Afghanistan.
These parents are telling the Taliban that they have been waiting to send their daughters to school for last one year. Meanwhile, as reported by Tolo News of Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesperson recently said that different people have different opinions on reopening of girls' schools in Afghanistan and they are trying to resolve the matter. This is another ridiculous statement from a Taliban representative on the issue of girls' education in Afghanistan.
Access to education is a fundamental right of everybody in the world. And that is why it is one of the first and foremost responsibilities of every civilized country to provide education to their citizens regardless of their gender, religion and also financial situations. Education is an issue that does not need people's approval or their vote for introduction in a country. It is a basic right of the citizens of every nation of the globe and the government must guarantee it.
People across Afghanistan are increasingly frustrated with the continued denial of education to girls by the Taliban regime. And the most disappointed among them are none but the girls themselves. Most of these young girls going to 7-12 grades were born under the US occupation of Afghanistan when their education received the highest priority. But sadly the Taliban swiftly reversed all the gains that were achieved in the field of girls' education sending them home.
The denial of education to Afghan girls for last one year has sparked a chorus of criticisms against the Taliban regime. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is shocked for the continuation of denial of education to Afghan girls. In a remark on the ban of education for the Afghan school girls since September 18 last year, Guterres said: "A year of lost knowledge and opportunity that they will never get back. The girls belong in school. The Taliban must let them back in."
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is more shocked and also outraged for the continued closure of schools of Afghan girls. "It was a tragic, shameful and entirely avoidable anniversary," saidMarkus Potzel, the deputy head of mission in reference to the one year of Afghan girls' ban from the school. "The ongoing exclusion of girls from high school has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world. It is profoundly damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan itself."
According to an estimate of the UN mission in Afghanistan, more than one million girls were barred from attending high school over the past year. In a statement, the mission expressed its profound frustration over the denial of education to Afghan girls and said it violates their most fundamental right. "It also increases the risk of marginalization, violence, exploitation and abuse against Afghan girls," the mission said reiterating the UN call for the country's "de facto authorities" to take urgent measures to reopen high schools for all in Afghanistan.
Norway's ambassador and permanent representative to the UN Mona Juul is dismayed by the ongoing restrictions on education for Afghan girls. She said Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls cannot go to school. "One year after the Taliban takeover the situation for women and girls has deteriorated on a shocking scale � one grim example is that Afghanistan is now the only nation in the world that forbids girls' education. Almost one year has passed since Taliban banned teenage girls from schools," she said.
Afghanistan's former President Hamid Karzai is also disturbed by the closure of girls' school in his country. So, he too has strongly criticized the Taliban regime for banning Afghan girls from education. Describing access to education as "one of the most fundamental human rights," Karzai demanded reopening of schools for girls across Afghanistan and urged the Islamic emirate to provide education to the youth. Karzai is absolutely right. Education is central to everything. No country can achieve any success in any field without education.
Why the Taliban have banned Afghan girls from pursuing their education -- a God-given and fundamental right? Islam has never prohibited women from learning and acquiring knowledge. This religion rather has strongly encouraged the pursuit of knowledge for both men and women. Prominent Islamic scholars say that education is a divine command for both men and women. Based on the teachings of the Quran as well as the authentic Hadith, women just like men are obligated to increase their knowledge and pursue it.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque and University has urged the Taliban to allow Afghan girls to pursue their education and re-establish the rights of women in Afghanistan. Similar appeals have been made to the Taliban by many other high-profile Islamic scholars from around the world. "Islam liberated women from ignorant customs that robbed them of their rights and saw them as imperfect human beings that lack free will. On the International Day of the Girls, we call for all necessary measures to guarantee girls and young women their Islamically protected rights to education and dignity," the Grand Imam tweeted on October 11 last year.
Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, former secretary-general of the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation or OIC said: "Education is the only way to empower the girls, improve their status, ensure their participation in the development of their respective societies, and activate their role to be able to take responsibility for future generations." No one should have any dispute about what this prominent Islamic scholar has said on the significance of girls' education in every society in the world. Girls' education is paramount for the wellbeing of a family, a community and of course a country.
Onward for Afghan Women, an initiative of the Washington-based Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security says that the girls' right to education is a fundamental right of mind and intellect which are central to the faith of Islam. "Education of girls is central to their faith because it increases their knowledge, teaches them how to use their intellect, furnishes them with critical reflection skills and makes them better Muslims and better members of their communities. It allows girls and women to make use of the gifts Allah has given them," says the organization.
It said there are many benefits of educating girls. "It contributes to stronger economies and alleviates poverty. Economic development and reducing poverty require countries to benefit from the talents, skills and productivity of all their citizens, both men and women. Reducing the gender gap and educating girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will help reduce the skills gap, increase employment and productivity of women and reduce occupational segregation. Educating girls also leads to healthier and happier families, because educated women make better and more informed decisions for the wellbeing of their children."
If the Taliban don't want, they don't have to follow the policies of the Western countries. They can just follow the policy of their neighbor Pakistan and 56 other Arab and Muslim states toward the education of girls. Over one million Afghan girls lost one year of their life for nothing. They shouldn't lose any more time just stayinghome. This cannot be a policy of any responsible government. The girls should be allowed to immediately go back to their schools.
The writer is a Toronto-based
journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun as a guest columnist