The Taliban said on Tuesday Afghan girls will be allowed to return to school as soon as a conducive environment including safe transport has been made available.
Critics view the reason provided by the Taliban as a mere excuse to ban women from school and work, rights it had pledged to uphold.
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One month after seizing power and pledging a softer version of their previous regime, the Islamists have incrementally stripped away Afghans’ freedoms.
During the weekend, the education ministry issued a diktat ordering male teachers and students back to secondary school but made no mention of the country’s women educators and girl pupils.
At a press conference in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the return of girls to school:
We are finalising things… it will happen as soon as possible.
The Taliban, an Islamist militant group, was notorious for its brutal, oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001 when women were largely barred from work and school, including being banned from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a male relative.
Its return to power in August coincided with the departure of the USA, UK, and their allied force from Afghanistan following a two-decade war with the group.
Under the ousted US-backed government, hundreds of thousands of women entered the workforce with many becoming their families’ sole breadwinners after becoming widowed, or when their husbands were maimed during decades of conflict.
The Taliban announced their new leadership earlier in September and made no reference to the now-closed women’s affairs ministry. No female ministers were named.
The Taliban have also slashed women’s access to work, with officials previously telling them to stay at home for their own security until segregation under the group’s restrictive interpretation of sharia law can be implemented.
While the country’s new rulers have not issued a formal policy outright banning women from working, directives by individual officials have amounted to their exclusion from the workplace.