This week the new academic year began in Afghanistan, and girls were once again denied their fundamental right to education. Schools only reopened for boys.
The Taliban also arrested a long-time respected education activist for all kids across Afghanistan. Matiullah Wesa has spent years traveling to some of the most remote areas, promoting education for all children, especially girls’ right to education. Despite receiving death threats for advocating kids’ access to education, he and his brothers have been constant allies.
Wesa founded the Pen Path organization, a non-profit, and together with his brothers, set up libraries and distributed books and stationeries. Since the Taliban takeover of the government in August 2021, the Wesa brothers didn’t stop.
They continued their campaign for girls’ right to education, often speaking with local tribal and religious leaders to allow girls to study. He also used his platform to show the Afghan people’s desire and thirst for education. The Pen Path network has thousands of volunteers across Afghanistan and has helped set up classrooms and distributed books to over 300,000 Afghans
Wesa was on his way out of the mosque when the Taliban arrested him. He and his two brothers are in the custody of the Taliban. Shortly afterward, the Taliban intelligence raided his house, confiscated their phones, and insulted their mother, another Wesa brother shared on social media.
The Taliban has been arresting women and men, protesting the ban on women and girls’ education and employment. Recently, the Taliban arrested a group of women protesting the ban on their education and employment, corresponding with the second anniversary of the school’s reopening.
In February, the Taliban also arrested a notable university lecturer, Ismail Mashal, who was also protesting the Taliban ban on women and girls’ rights to education. His media activism and a handcart library on the street, handing out free books and with the message: “Islam has given women and men equal rights to education” have fully changed his life – living under the Taliban’s constant surveillance even after his release. Prof. Mashal has remained silent since his release from the Taliban detention.
The continued arrests, detention, torture, and conditional releases send a strong message to all Afghans who dare speak up against the Taliban: if you do, you will be arrested, detained, and tortured.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women and girls are systematically banned from getting an education.
Since the Taliban took control of the government in August 2021, women and girls have steadily lost their rights and freedoms. The Taliban has issued nearly 100 edicts, most restricting women’s rights. Girls cannot go to school beyond grade 6; women were banned from higher education in December 2022. The same month, women were also not allowed to work with non-profit organizations anymore. Women cannot go to parks and gyms and are told they can leave their “house only if necessary.
BBC, Guardian, Twitter.