As we approach the second anniversary of the Taliban’s return to power, female students are still deprived of an education as they are barred from schools and universities. This ban was imposed in August 2021, and it is pertinent to point out that Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a ban on female education. Despite much local, regional, and international pressure, there has been little progress on this issue; however, reports now reveal that there are divisions with the ruling camp as many advisors are in favour of lifting the ban.
Senior education officials have been quoted as saying that universities are ready to readmit female students, but the ruling Taliban’s leader has the ultimate say on when that might happen, if something happens at all. Advisors within the Higher Education Ministry claim that there is consensus among themselves over resuming girls’ education, but there can be no movement on the matter until the Taliban leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada gives the signal.
When the ban was imposed, the official position was that it was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders, and that there were some subjects being taught which violated the principles of Islam. The authorities also claimed that they would be introducing strict uniforms and guidelines, and that girls would be allowed to return to school once this groundwork was done. However, almost two years in, there has been no progress on the matter.
Moreover, these statements from officials point towards internal divisions and diverging opinions with the Taliban about the decision-making process and the leader’s edicts. This has also forced the chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid to issue a statement to quickly reject any reports of divisions within the leadership. Not only does this show the authority and hold the leader possesses over the government and its affairs, but also exposes the lack of autonomy these ministries have when deciding on key matters relating to their portfolio.
Surely, Kabul can work out concerns around gender segregation, course material and dress codes if it chooses to, as opposed to continuing an indefinite ban that threatens the futures and violates the basic rights of millions of girls. These divisions that are now coming to the fore cannot be papered over for too long, as this is an unsustainable model of leadership and decision making, that will only harm the Taliban in the long run.