Girls walk to school along in Gardez

Afghan girls protest school closure in eastern city

Girls go to school in Gardez – Copyright AFP –

Dozens of girls protested in an eastern Afghan city on Saturday after Taliban authorities closed their high schools just days after classes resumed, the activist and local residents said.

Last week, five public high schools in the eastern province of Paktia reopened classes after hundreds of girls and tribal leaders demanded they reopen.

But when students in the provincial capital of Gardez went to class on Saturday, they were told to go home, women’s rights activists and local residents said.

“This morning, when girls were not allowed into schools, we held a protest,” said activist Yasmin, the organizer of the rally.

Dressed in their school uniform – a white headscarf and a black shalwar kameez – the girls marched through downtown Gardez to protest the closure.

Four of the newly opened schools are in Gardez and one in Samqani.

Since returning to power in August last year, the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on girls and women to live up to their harsh vision of Islam, effectively pushing them out of public life.

In March, they closed all girls’ high schools for a few hours after reopening them for the first time under their rule.

Images posted to social media on Saturday show girls marching through the city center in front of residents and shopkeepers.

“The Taliban did not allow anyone to film the protest. In fact, they broke the mobile phones of some of the protesters,” Yasmin told AFP by phone.

Two residents of the city also confirmed the protest, which journalists were not allowed to cover.

“The students protested peacefully, but the rally was soon dispersed by the security forces,” a Gardez resident, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Officials say the ban is just a “technical issue” and classes will resume as soon as a curriculum based on Islamic rules is determined.

Several public schools continue to operate in parts of the country due to pressure from local leaders and families.

However, they remain closed in most provinces, including the capital Kabul, as well as Kandahar, the Taliban’s de facto center of power.

According to UNICEF, about three million girls are currently banned from secondary education in Afghanistan.

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