Ban on women’s education: deep rift in Taliban leadership

For the first time since the Taliban seized power in August last year, secondary schools for women reopened in March this year, but were ordered to close again within hours.

The Taliban has again banned the education of Afghan women. The ultra-conservative Islamist group seeks to maintain its power and control over the country through these sanctions.

Experts say the Taliban’s embargo puts a section of the Afghan population at risk.

The ban has also sparked international outrage. Even many involved in the Taliban movement are confused by this decision.

A senior Taliban member told AFP: “The sanctions were destructive. Here the supreme leader himself has intervened. “

All Taliban officials who spoke to AFP about the sensitivity of the issue provided the same information on condition of anonymity.

For the first time since the Taliban seized power in August last year, secondary schools for women were reopened in March this year, but were ordered to close again within hours.

The decision came after a secret meeting of the party’s top leadership in Kandahar, the Taliban’s de facto stronghold.

Many Taliban leaders do not support the ban, and believe that women’s education is important in accordance with Islamic principles.

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A senior Taliban official told AFP that “Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and some other senior figures were very conservative and dominated the discussion.”

He said two groups had emerged in the “urban” and “ultra-conservative” movements.

Referring to a group of scholars including Chief Justice Abdul Hakim Sharai, Minister for Religious Affairs Nur Mohammad Sakeb and Vice Minister for Propaganda and Prevention of Vice Mohammad Khalid Hanafi, he said, “The ultra-conservatives have won this round.”

To restore the influence of Kandahar

Ashley Jackson, a London-based researcher who has worked extensively on Afghanistan, said: “Scholars are excluded from government decisions and see opposition to women’s education as a way to regain their influence.”

“The unpredictable impact of this untouchable minority has prevented the country from moving forward with something that most Afghans favor and most of the leadership wants,” he told AFP.

“This shows that Kandahar remains the center of gravity of Taliban politics,” said Graeme Smith, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“The extremists are trying to appease thousands of fighters from the deeply conservative countryside,” said a senior Taliban member. It is also immoral for them to be from a woman’s home. Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl. “

The Taliban member said Akhundzada was against “modern, secular education” because he associated it with life under former Western-backed Presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. This is his worldview. “

The Taliban returned to power last year, ending a 20-year occupation by US-led forces.

During the last 20 years between the two Taliban regimes, the country has allowed girls to attend school and, despite being socially conservative, has had job opportunities in every field.

Tafsir Siaposh, an activist and Islamic scholar, noted, “Afghan women always take classes by gender. That is, no male can be present in the classroom and follow an Islamic curriculum. So the Taliban’s ban is just an excuse to oppress women’s rights. “

Injury with foreign aid

A Pakistani Taliban source confirmed the differences at the leadership level and said there was no danger of the movement splitting.

“It simply came to our notice then. But we are trying to overcome our shortcomings, “he said.

Still, analysts say the sanctions are a blow to international recognition and efforts to mobilize aid to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Even some senior Taliban officials agree.

“We are telling them (the ultra-conservatives) that running a country is different from running a madrassa,” said a Taliban official in Kandahar.

” Everything was going smoothly until this strict order came and since this order came from our leader we have to follow it. But we are trying to change that, “he said.

Smith said the sanctions had reduced the government’s willingness to cooperate with the Taliban.

“This raises the question, who exactly should the Taliban talk to,” Smith said.

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