School girls in Karokh district of Western Herat province in 2011. Photo: @Ali Ahmad

An Open Letter from Afghan Girls to heads of Muslim Countries and World Leaders!

It has been TWO years or 730 days since Afghan girls were banned from attending middle and high school in Afghanistan, and they have been erased from the Educational System by the Taliban. 

Taliban’s occupation of Kabul has been the start of the miseries for the Afghan girls. Since their second occupation on August 15, 2021, the Taliban have issued more than 80 restricting decrees that have suppressed girls and women in Afghanistan, and such orders imprisoned women in their houses and erased women from society. In addition to the lack of optimism regarding girls’ schools reopening, universities and colleges are also closed for Afghan female students. Taliban claim that there are issues/problems with the educational system and curriculum that they are working to address. But the main question remains: Don’t they implement the same curriculum for boys? If so, what is the main reason behind closing schools and universities for Afghan girls? Taliban fail to provide a reasonable cause behind their claim as every Muslim man and woman is obliged to seek knowledge, and there are no restrictions or hurdles for girls and women to seek knowledge according to the Islamic and our Cultural traditions.

“I want you to imagine for a minute that your daughter is not allowed to go to school, your wife cannot work or go shopping or have any fun, you do not have a job and cannot provide for your family. If you can only imagine these hardships, think about millions of human- beings who experience them in Afghanistan daily.  What would you do against this catastrophe? Would you only watch or meet your responsibility based on your commitments to us?” (Mubriz – Balkh).

Due to the current situation, girls are under immense psychological pressures and experience various types of exclusion at different levels in the family, society, and the country. Every day brings a new disappointment and a new restriction, and the Taliban enact new decrees or regulations that would distance girls and women more and more from society and limits or shortens women and girls’ access to their human rights. We are buried alive here in Afghanistan. The two years of the Taliban rule equal to 10 years of hardship and pressure on us. We feel broken and caged, deeply disappointed, and worried about our unknown future. What is our fault? Just because we are girls. The current suppression and oppression do not only affect us, but they will affect the future generations in Afghanistan as well.

We are witnessing forced and underage marriages of our classmates. Mysterious killings of girls, youth suicides, and unemployment of the females who are the only breadwinners of their families have destroyed our country beyond repair with an unknown future, and such incidents are visible and expanding every day. We hear, witness, and feel with our souls and body the collapse of family ties. 

Such restrictions have not only distanced us from our education but also kept us away from our society and discouraged boys, teachers, and families from considering education for girls. These restrictions can have dire consequences on society in the long run, which would cause more poverty, violence, lack of education, superstitions, lack of appreciation, and other human rights violations in Afghanistan.

“My voice is breaking in my throat; I am totally disappointed. We shouted a lot while no one heard us. We are all tired now. In short, I don’t have a lot of demands, I, want to have my basic human rights and have access to a quality education that I and other girls are banned from”. (Bita – Kabul)

It is a fact that women complete society, the mother is the hope of a family, and girls and women are the lights, beauty, and facilitators of development and self-sufficiency in the country. We can assure you that any country without girls and women’s contribution will always remain incomplete (underdeveloped).

The current restrictions against girls and women in society, prohibition from freedom and rights, gender-based discrimination and violations and gender apartheid in Afghanistan have created a human catastrophe in Afghanistan, and the situation gets worse every day. The people of Afghanistan should mobilize to defend the rights of their daughters to quality education and women’s presence in society. Islamic scholars and influencers, tribal elders and seniors are historically and religiously responsible for putting pressure on the Taliban and demanding the opening of girls’ schools and their access to education.

We, the Afghan girls, and students, strongly demand that international organizations, Islamic countries, the UN, and member states consider our situation and address the following issues:

I: The UN, Member States, and World Leaders should take practical steps to end this human catastrophe, considering their commitment towards Afghanistan and international agendas such as sustainable development goals and international human rights conventions. It has been two years that soft politics against the Taliban and just expressing solidarity with the people of Afghanistan did not yield any positive results since they failed to hold the Taliban responsible for meeting their obligations towards respecting women’s and girls’ rights. Therefore, the international institutions and the leaders who believe in equality, justice, and human rights shall stand beside the millions of Afghan girls, women, and their families who demand the reopening of girls’ schools and access to quality education, women’s rights to have access to work and immediate restoration of the social, political, and cultural situation in Afghanistan. You shall put necessary and lawful pressure on the Taliban in this regard.  

II: Islamic Countries, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), neighboring countries, and regional players shall put the necessary pressure on the Taliban and take practical and urgent steps to remove restrictions towards girls’ education and women’s rights to work and ensure the safe return of the girls and women to school and work environment. Political leaders, Islamic scholars, and societies have religious, ethical, and regional responsibility to stand beside the Afghan girls, women, and educational activists and support them to pave the ground for a developed and prosperous Afghanistan.

III: Special foreign representatives and institutions for Afghanistan, international organizations, human rights organizations, research organizations, and media shall document atrocities, human rights violations, gender-based discrimination and violation, and Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan and should release such information publicly. In the past two years, the Taliban have violated/erased civic space and human freedoms nonstop. They have arrested and suppressed civil society activists, demonstrating girls and women, education advocates, journalists, university professors, and educated Afghans, where some of them are still in the Taliban’s jails. We remind the world leaders not to forget Afghanistan and repeat the 1996 scenario. The world should not normalize the current Afghanistan situation as the consequences would be worse beyond repair at the regional and international levels. We would witness the rise of extremism and security threats that would harm everyone (a Farsi proverb: its smoke will blind everyone), which will not be corrected or controlled.

Written by: 1000 girls Secondary School students, from 21 [1]provinces of Afghanistan and girls in exile from Pakistan and Iran.

Compiled by: Rahim Jami, Deema Hiram, and Robina Azizi.

[1] 21 provinces (Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Baghlan, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Takhar, Ghazni, Ghor, Parwan, Sar-e-Pul, Bamyan, Daikundi, Kapisa, Paktya, Paktika, Logar, Badakhshan, and Faryab) of Afghanistan.

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