Afghanistan: Two women detained and interrogated over protest against school closures for girls

Afghanistan: Two women detained and interrogated over protest against school closures for girls
3 min read
08 April, 2022
Two women have been detained and interrogated by the Taliban this week after participating in a protest against the group's decision to bar girls from attending school.
Girls in Afghanistan arrived at the school gates on 23 March, only to be told to go home [Getty]

The Taliban detained and interrogated at least two women in connection with a protest in the city of Bamyan that condemned the hardline Islamist group's decision to bar girls from going to school, local media reported on Thursday. 

A group of Afghan women disrupted a rally in support of the Taliban earlier this month, ripping down banners and demanding that girls over the age of 11 be allowed to return to full-time education. 

Two weeks prior, the Taliban reversed a decision to allow girls over a certain age back to school at the last minute, sending children and teenagers home when they arrived at the school gates. 

“The two women had been summoned to the Bayman City Security Directorate for questioning [on Wednesday] and were interrogated in connection with disrupting a support program for the Taliban,” reported Afghan media outlet Rakhshaneh. 

The two women were later released, according to an anonymous source quoted by the outlet.

Some sources on social media - including Shabnam Nasimi, a policy advisor to the UK Minister of State for Refugees - claimed that up to ten women were arrested and detained after the rally. Nasimi called the incident “horrifying”. 

“Taliban continue abducting women as ten protesters from Bamyan are taken away," said Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan, on Twitter on Thursday. "Abduction for disruption of an event at an educational institute? Seriously?” 

The meeting in Bayman where the incident took place was supposed to be about women’s right to education.

But it was only after some prospective participants saw a banner saying “We, the women of Bamyan, support the Islamic Emirate” that they realised that they had been tricked. 

“When some of the women started asking why there was no discussion of women’s education, the Taliban told them to stay silent and not interrupt the meeting,” said one attendee named Adeleh, according to Feminist Giant. 

“Some of the women left the hall in protest. Many of us stayed though, thinking maybe women’s education would be next on the agenda… but no, there was nothing,” the source added.

On 23 March, the Taliban barred girls over 11 from returning to school, saying they could not return to classrooms until a “comprehensive plan, in accordance with Sharia and Afghan culture, is developed”.

The U-turn outraged the international community and people across Afghanistan, the majority of whom appear to be in favour of female education, according to the BBC

The Islamist group cited a lack of teachers and issues with school uniforms as reasons for the ban. 

"They don’t want to actually come out and admit they don’t want girls to go to school,” said Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch.