Nationwide protests if Afghan girls' schools stay shut - Activists

Nationwide protests if Afghan girls' schools stay shut - Activists
FILE

Agency Report

Women's rights activists pledged Sunday to launch a wave of protests across Afghanistan if the Taliban fail to reopen girls' secondary schools within a week.

Thousands of secondary school girls had flocked to classes on Wednesday after the hardline Islamists reopened their institutions for the first time since seizing power last August.

But officials ordered the schools shut again just hours into the day, triggering international outrage.

"We call on the leaders of the Islamic Emirate to open girls' schools within one week," activist Halima Nasari read from a statement issued by four women's rights groups at a press conference in Kabul.

"If the girls' schools remain closed even after one week, we will open them ourselves and stage demonstrations throughout the country until our demands are met."

The Taliban should be building more schools for girls in the country's remote rural areas rather than shutting existing facilities, said the statement, which comes after several high-profile women's activists in the country were detained in recent months.

"The people can no longer tolerate such oppression. We do not accept any excuse from the authorities," it said.

On Saturday, about two dozen schoolgirls and women staged a protest in Kabul demanding the reopening of the schools.

The education ministry has so far not given a clear reason for its policy reversal, but senior Taliban leader Suhail Shaheel told AFP that some "practical issues" were still to be resolved before reopening the schools.

Since storming back to power the Taliban have rolled back two decades of gains made by the country's women, who have been squeezed out of many government jobs, barred from travelling alone, and ordered to dress according to a strict interpretation of the Koran.

The Taliban had promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

But many restrictions have still been imposed -- if not at the national level then implemented locally at the whim of regional officials.

Some Afghan women initially pushed back against the Taliban's curbs, holding small protests where they demanded the right to education and work.

But the Taliban soon rounded up the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado while denying that they had been detained.

Since their release, most have gone silent.

AFP

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