Girls were excluded from returning to secondary school in Afghanistan on Saturday, after the country’s new Taliban rulers ordered only boys and male teachers back to the classroom.
The hardline Islamist group ousted the U.S.-backed government last month, promising a softer brand of rule than their repressive reign in the 1990s, when women were mostly banned from education and work. But the diktat from the Education Ministry was the latest move from the new government to threaten women’s rights. “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” a statement said ahead of classes resuming on Saturday.
The statement, issued late on Friday, made no mention of women teachers or girl students. Secondary schools, with students typically between the ages of 13 and 18, are often segregated by sex in Afghanistan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have faced closures and have been shut since the Taliban seized power.
Primary schools have already reopened, with boys and girls mostly attending separate classes and some women teachers returning to work. The new regime has also permitted women to go to private universities, though with tough restrictions on their clothes and movement.
In a further sign that the Taliban’s approach to women and girls had not softened, they appeared to have shut down the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing str ict religious doctrine during their first rule. In Kabul on Friday, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building.