Afghan girls of all ages allowed to attend religious schools, says Taliban

Afghan girls of all ages allowed to attend religious schools, says Taliban

Afghan girls of all ages allowed to attend religious schools, says Taliban

Religious schools, which have historically been for boys only, are now open to Afghan girls of all ages, a Taliban official announced.

A day prior, Roza Otunbayeva, the special envoy of the United Nations, informed reporters and the Security Council that the organisation was getting “more and more anecdotal evidence” that girls could pursue education at madrassas, or Islamic schools.

However, according to Otunbayeva, it was unclear what exactly qualified as a madrassa, whether modern education subjects were allowed in the curriculum, and how many girls were able to attend the schools.

The Taliban have drawn international criticism for forbidding women and girls from pursuing higher education past the sixth grade, including a university education. One of the few places where girls can get any kind of education after the sixth grade is a madrassa.

Mansor Ahmad, a spokesman at the Education Ministry in the Afghan capital Kabul, said in messages to The Associated Press that there are no age restrictions for girls at government-controlled madrassas. The only requirement is that girls must be in a madrassa class appropriate to their age.

“If her age is not in line with the class and (the age) is too high, then she is not allowed,” said Ahmad. “Madrassas have the same principles as schools and older women are not allowed in junior classes.” Privately run madrassas have no age restrictions and females of all ages, including adult women, can study in these schools, according to Ahmad.

There are around 20,000 madrassas in Afghanistan, of which 13,500 are government-controlled. Private madrassas operate out of mosques or homes, said Ahmad. He did not give details on how many girls are studying in the country’s madrassas or if this number increased after the bans.

Otunbayeva addressed the Security Council on the one-year anniversary of the Taliban banning women from universities. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education.

Higher education officials in Kabul were unavailable for comment Thursday on when or if the restrictions would be lifted, or what steps the Taliban are taking to make campuses and classrooms comply with their interpretation of Islamic law.

Afghanistan’s higher education minister, Nida Mohammed Nadim, said last December that the university ban was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders and because he believed some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam.

(with inputs from The Associated Press)