Sunday, May 19, 2024

Afghan girls join secret schools to resist Taliban


Nafisa found the perfect place to hide her textbooks from her Taliban brother, which was in the kitchen, where Afghan men rarely entered. Millions of girls and young women like Nafeesa have been out of school since the movement returned to power a year ago, but their thirst for education has never gone away. “There’s nothing for men in the kitchen, so I keep my books there,” says Nafisa, who attends a secret school in a village in eastern Afghanistan. “If my brother finds out, he will beat me up,” he adds.

Since returning to power a year ago, the Taliban have imposed strict restrictions on women and girls, effectively removing them from public life. When the Taliban took control, it promised a less harsh regime compared to its previous regime between 1996 and 2001, which saw human rights abuses. And many jobs were taken away.common people. Across the country, women were banned from traveling long distances without a mahram, and authorities ordered them to cover their faces in public, preferring to wear burqas.

While girls’ high schools have not been allowed to reopen in many parts of Afghanistan, clandestine schools have sprung up across the country in substandard living rooms. A team of AFP journalists visited the three schools to interview female students and teachers, whose real names have been withheld for their protection.

Decades of turmoil in Afghanistan have destroyed the education system, so Nafisa is in secondary school even though she is 20 years old. Only mother and sister knew about it. As for the brother, he returned home after years of fighting with the “Taliban” against the previous government and the mountain forces, after the movement came back to power. It was steeped in the movement’s belief that women’s place was the home.

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Her brother allowed her to go to a religious school to study the Quran in the morning, but left home in the afternoon to attend a secret class organized by the Afghan Women’s Revolutionary Association. “If we don’t take this risk, we will be illiterate,” says Nafisa. “I want to be a doctor,” he says, “we want to achieve something, we want to be independent, serve society and build our future.”

When AFP visited the undercover school, Nafisa and nine other girls were discussing freedom of expression with their teacher, sitting side by side on a carpet and reading a book aloud. Area inhabited mostly by Pashtuns. “Taliban” elements.

When a Taliban fighter asks where they are going, the women say they are enrolled in a tailoring workshop and hide their books in shopping bags or under an abaya or burqa. Not only do they take risks, but they also make sacrifices, like Nafisa’s sister, who dropped out of school to ease her brother’s suspicions.

The Taliban still insists on allowing classes to resume, but the issue has divided the movement, while several sources told AFP that a hard-line faction is advising the movement’s supreme leader, Hefatullah Akhundzada, to oppose any education for women. At best, education is limited to religious studies or training courses like cooking and embroidery. However, the official position is that the study failed to resume due to a “technical issue”.

Although some subjects have been reduced due to the lack of female teachers and lectures are conducted separately for boys and girls, female primary school students are at least, and still at least, young female students are still attending universities, so the current female students may be the last batch of graduates in the country in the future.

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“Education is an inalienable right for men and women in Islam,” analyst Abdul Bari Madani told AFP. “If this ban continues, Afghanistan will return to medieval times… a generation of girls will be buried. .” Fear of the possibility of a lost generation prompted Tamkeen to turn her home in Kabul into a school, and the woman in her forties almost lost her future after being forced to stop studying during the first Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001. When female education was banned.

It took years of self-education for Tamkeen to become a teacher, but she lost her job at the Ministry of Education when the Taliban returned to power last year. Tamkeen, with the support of her husband, initially converted a warehouse in her house into a classroom, then sold a cow belonging to her family to buy money and books, as most of the girls who came to her were from poor families and could not pay. Today he teaches English and Science to 25 students. Maliha, 17, believes the day will come when the “Taliban” will leave power: “We will use our knowledge for something useful.”

In a maze of mud houses on the outskirts of Kabul, where Laila is also being given lessons in secret, after the decision to reopen high schools was overturned and seeing the disappointment on her daughter’s face, she knew she had to do something. “If my daughter is crying, surely other girls are crying too,” the 38-year-old said.

About 12 women meet two days a week at Laila’s home, which includes a courtyard and garden where vegetables and fruits are grown. “We are not afraid of the Taliban,” says 18-year-old Gawdar.

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But the right to education is not the only goal of some Afghan girls and women, who are often cruelly or severely controlled by men. Zahra, who attends a secret school in eastern Afghanistan, was married off at 14 and now lives with in-laws who resist the idea of ​​her going to classes. Afraid that her husband will give in to her family and keep them at home, she takes sleeping pills to relieve her anxiety. “I go to the local market and tell them I’m coming here,” Zahra says of her secret school.

• Hundreds of thousands of girls have been out of school since the “Taliban” came back to power a year ago, but their thirst for education has never gone away.

• While girls’ high schools have not been allowed to reopen in many parts of Afghanistan, clandestine schools have sprung up across the country in substandard living rooms.

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Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
"Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert."

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