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Heartbreak as Afghan girls ordered home just hours after schools reopen

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Several girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan briefly welcomed back students only to dismiss class again

The Taliban ordered girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan to shut on Wednesday just hours after they reopened, sparking heartbreak and confusion over the policy reversal by the hardline Islamist group.

The U-turn was announced after thousands of girls resumed lessons for the first time since August, when the Taliban seized control of the country and imposed harsh restrictions on women.

“In Afghanistan, especially in the villages, the mindsets are not ready,” spokesman Aziz Ahmad Rayan told reporters.

A Taliban source told AFP the decision came after a meeting late Tuesday by senior officials in the southern city of Kandahar, the movement’s de facto power centre and conservative spiritual heartland.

They insisted, however, that pupils aged 12 to 19 would be segregated — even though most Afghan schools are already same-sex — and would operate according to Islamic principles.

“I see my students crying and reluctant to leave classes,” said Palwasha, a teacher at Omara Khan girls’ school in Kabul.

US special envoy to Afghanistan Rina Amiri said the closing of schools “weakens confidence in the Taliban commitments”.

– Closing of schools ‘disturbing’ –

There were fears, however, the Taliban would shut down all formal education for girls — as they did during their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

Students from Sadar Kabuli Girls High School staged protests after they were told to leave, witnesses and activists said.

– Slew of restrictions –

They have also detained several women’s rights activists.

Others see little point in girls learning at all.

“What will be our future?”

Human Rights Watch also raised the issue of the few avenues girls are given to apply their education.

The education ministry acknowledged authorities faced a shortage of teachers — with many among the tens of thousands of people who fled the country as the Taliban swept to power.

bur-jd/ecl-fox



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