Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday reported that in Afghanistan’s Herat province, new restrictions on female education have been introduced, prohibiting men from teaching girls and women in private and imposing strict gender segregation in all schools. Mohammad Deen Fahim, deputy head of Herat’s educational department, last Friday justified the changes, saying that the current methods of teaching that include men teaching women and girls are “in contradiction with Islamic law,” according to HRW. Over the last several months, women and girls have been trying to make up for the lost years of schooling under the Taliban. Until last week, many in Herat attended private courses–in addition to their public schooling–in areas like foreign language and computers. Almost all of the private educational courses are taught by men.
Herat is currently under the control of the local warlord Ismail Khan, who has stifled political dissent and independent media in the province while imposing Taliban-like restrictions on women and girls. A recent HRW report entitled “We Want to Live as Humans: Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan,” found that in the Herat province, women’s rights to work, free speech, and free association continue to be curtailed. The group says situations are similar in other regions of the country.
President Bush recently signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which authorizes $2.3 billion in aid to Afghanistan over four years and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The Act also includes language by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that makes Afghan women a funding priority, earmarking $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission. However, the Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. The funds must still be appropriated by Congress.