Can the US compel the Taliban to lift their ban on girls’ education?

 Can the US compel the Taliban to lift their ban on girls’ education?

Can the US compel the Taliban to lift their ban on girls’ education?

WEB DESK: The US has sanctioned two Taliban ministers, Sheikh Mohammad Khalid Hanafi and Sheikh Fariduddin Mahmood, for their views on girls’ education. Will they, however, make a difference?

The United States’ recent decision to sanction two key Taliban leaders believed to have influenced Haibatullah Akhundzada’s decision to prohibit secondary and higher education for girls is seen as part of global efforts to compel the Afghan administration to lift the ban.

On December 8, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury designated Sheikh Mohammad Khalid Hanafi and Sheikh Fariduddin Mahmood for their involvement in “serious human rights abuse related to the repression of women and girls, including through the restriction of access to secondary education for women and girls in Afghanistan solely based on gender.”

Male-only cabinet

Hanafi and Mahmood hold influential positions within the all-male cabinet of the Taliban administration.

Hanafi heads the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry, responsible for implementing their interpretation of Islamic laws, while Mahmood serves as a minister and led the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences. Both individuals are believed to have played a significant role in encouraging Taliban Supreme Leader Akhundzada to issue a controversial decree restricting girls’ education, according to educationists and officials in the Taliban’s administration in Kabul.

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Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, they have barred girls from school beyond the sixth grade because they said it didn’t comply with their interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

The only nation in the world to impose such limitations is Afghanistan.
According to UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, the Taliban’s action made Afghanistan the only nation in the world with restrictions on female education, affecting over a million girls.

Notably, the Taliban have not yielded much in the face of international condemnation. They tightened the restrictions even more in December 2022, prohibiting women and girls from enrolling in universities—even in settings where they are segregated and required to cover their faces. Human rights organizations, academics, and even Muslim organizations like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation criticized this move even more. The latter sent a delegation to Kabul to urge the Taliban to change their mind.

Activists said that the justifications offered by the Taliban for the ban — concerns about religious and cultural norms, security and infrastructure — closely mirror those used in the 1990s.

“The Taliban have a strong rulebook they follow, and one of the rules is that girls don’t get education, mixing their own interpretation of religious and cultural norms,” said Ahmed, a Kabul-based development professional with a focus on health and education. He used his single name for security reasons.

Uncertain about the immediate impact of US sanctions on key Taliban leaders, Ali expressed hope that persistent international pressure, coupled with engagement with moderate voices within the Taliban, could contribute to progress on issues such as girls’ education.

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The Taliban condemned the US sanctions on its ministers. “Imposing pressure and restriction is not the solution to any problem,” Zabihullah Mujahid. The chief Taliban spokesman, said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Possible cracks could spark change

Interviews with Taliban officials in Kabul, however. Suggest internal divisions within the administration on various issues, particularly the ban on girls’ education.

Speaking anonymously for security reasons. A mid-level Taliban official told DW that Taliban Supreme Leader Akhundzada, surrounded by rigid hardliners like Hanafi and Mahmood. Advocates for the strict implementation of Shariah and opposes moderate voices within the Taliban’s ranks.

Their hard line on this matter is demonstrated by the recent resignation of Sheikh Abdul Bari Haqqani. The Taliban administration’s minister of higher education, who had permitted females to enroll in universities in separate classes through December 2022.

Experts say that although there are still differences within the Taliban. Akhundzada has emerged as the leader with a stronger grip.

According to Hassan Abbas, author of “The Return of the Taliban” and professor of international relations at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. “Akhundzada has a network of conservative rural clerics that is more organized in addition to having a strong-armed security force that reports directly to him.”

“Haibatullah’s junta in Kandahar now has firm control over all issues pertaining to Shariah law. And important policy matters, including girls’ education,” Abbas told DW.

There are currently no plans to open female-only schools.

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After the announcement of the ban in September 2021. 15-year-old Fatima (name changed) in Kabul expressed her regret, saying, “I miss my school, teachers, and friends.” “Our future is dark without education,” she said to DW.

The ban jeopardizes the progress made in women’s empowerment over the previous 20 years and worsens already-existing gender disparities.

US is charged with installing a “facade.”

Former Kabul schoolteacher Maryam (name changed) claimed that during the past 20 years, women’s empowerment in education, employment. And other areas has increased in Afghanistan despite corruption, poor governance, and the state of law and order.

Furthermore, Maryam charges that the international community’s contempt for the Taliban’s treatment of girls is not sincere.

According to Maryam, “the international community has regrettably turned into silent spectators. Seeing Afghan women’s miseries after handing Afghanistan over to the Taliban.” “They aim to project a front of concern for girls’ education by imposing alleged sanctions on Taliban leaders.”

Web Desk

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