brown103_SANAULLAH SEIAMAFP via Getty Images_afghanistan SANAULLAH SEIAM/AFP via Getty Images

An Opening in the Fight to Educate Afghan Girls

Increasingly apparent internal divisions within the Taliban over the education of women suggest that the group could be convinced to reopen girls’ secondary schools. The international community should develop new channels of communication with these factions to promote gender equality in education.

EDINBURGH/NEW YORK – It has now been over two years since the United States military ended its decades-long war in Afghanistan, and the world’s attention has predictably shifted to the horrific conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. But the mess left behind by the chaotic US withdrawal has not been cleaned up – far from it. Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, the country’s economic and humanitarian crises have deepened and sharpened.

Conditions for Afghan girls and women, in particular, have deteriorated rapidly, shattering their hopes for their personal and professional lives. In edict after edict, the new theocratic government has systematically stripped them of their fundamental human rights, including to an education. As a result, Afghanistan has become the only country in the world where girls are prohibited from attending school beyond the age of 11.

Millions of Afghan girls are being denied a chance to develop their talents and fulfill their dreams, putting a generation at risk of lasting damage and jeopardizing the country’s economic future. Worse, those girls and women who fled to Pakistan to continue their education will once again be denied schooling. The Pakistani government recently ordered the expulsion of 1.7 million undocumented Afghans, around 700,000 of whom sought refuge in the country after the Taliban’s takeover.