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Taliban allows Afghan girls of all ages to study in religious schools

December 22, 2023

An official from the Taliban announced on Thursday that Afghan girls of all ages are now allowed to attend religious schools, which were traditionally exclusive to boys. The United Nations, however, expressed uncertainty regarding the criteria for these schools, the presence of a standardized curriculum incorporating modern subjects, and the extent of girls’ access to such education.

The Taliban has faced global criticism for restricting girls and women from education beyond the sixth grade, including university enrollment. Madrassas have become one of the few options for girls seeking education beyond this level. According to Mansor Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Afghan Education Ministry, government-controlled madrassas do not impose age restrictions on girls; the only requirement is that they attend a class appropriate for their age.

Ahmad clarified that privately run madrassas have no age restrictions, allowing females of all ages, including adults, to pursue education. Afghanistan has approximately 20,000 madrassas, with 13,500 under government control. However, specific details on the number of girls enrolled or any potential increase in enrollment following the lifted bans were not provided.

On the one-year anniversary of the Taliban’s ban on women attending universities, UN special envoy Roza Otunbayeva addressed the Security Council, expressing concerns about the lack of clarity regarding madrassas. The country remains the only one in the world with restrictions on female education. Officials in Kabul were unavailable for comment on the potential lifting of restrictions or the measures the Taliban might take to align campuses and classrooms with their interpretation of Islamic law.

Last December, Afghanistan’s higher education minister, Nida Mohammed Nadim, justified the university ban as a measure to prevent gender mixing and to address concerns about certain subjects violating Islamic principles.

Also read: UN official, Taliban minister meet on Afghan women NGO ban

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