In 'preposterous' claim, ex-Taliban official says militants protected girls by denying their education

By Sulaiman

Afghan girls sit in a classroom July 1, 2010, at Jahan Maleka High School in Ghazni city, Ghazni Province. [Coalition Forces]

Afghan girls sit in a classroom July 1, 2010, at Jahan Maleka High School in Ghazni city, Ghazni Province. [Coalition Forces]

KABUL -- Afghans from all walks of life are ridiculing a Taliban claim that the reason the group kept girls from going to school was for their own protection.

"During the reign of the Taliban [1996-2001], we had wars and insecurity, and for that reason, they did not allow women and girls to leave their homes, whether it was to attend schools, to go to work, etc.," Sayed Akbar Agha, a former senior Taliban official who now lives in Kabul, told Salaam Times in January.

"The Taliban did not want Afghan women and girls to leave their homes and risk their dignity and honour," he said. "The Taliban leadership ... unanimously agreed that women should not be allowed to study or work outside their homes."

"If the education of women is in accordance with Sharia law, and if security is provided, the Taliban will allow [girls] to study and to become educated," he said.

Afghan children read books on a mobile library bus in Kabul last April 4. [Shah Marai/AFP]

Afghan children read books on a mobile library bus in Kabul last April 4. [Shah Marai/AFP]

Religious scholars, analysts and Kabul residents, however, are mocking that rewriting of history.

'A preposterous excuse'

The Taliban's invocation of wartime as a pretext for keeping school-aged girls ignorant and confined to their homes "is nothing but a preposterous excuse", Fawzia Safdari, 46, a Kabul schoolteacher, told Salaam Times.

"I remember very well that there was no war in Kabul when the Taliban ruled that city," she said. "Nevertheless, women and girls had to stay at home like prisoners."

"The Taliban's views are un-Islamic," she said. "In no religion or sect have women ever been deprived of their right to learn."

"They lie," Yunis Fakur, a political scientist in Kabul, told Salaam Times, referring to the Taliban. "Under Taliban rule, all women and girls were denied their right to education, as well as all other rights."

The Taliban wish to "keep the Afghan people illiterate and far from the civilised world", he said. "They want to easily implement their radical ideology."

"The Taliban believe that women may study only the Koran, learn ablution, pray and stay at home," Fakur said. "Islam, on the contrary, has granted rights and responsibilities to women and men alike. It says women's education is mandatory."

Creating a generation of "illiterate Afghan women" means their children will be equally ignorant and malleable, warned Nuria Nuzhat, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry.

"The number of female students in Afghan schools has been rising every year since 2001," she told Salaam Times.

"Almost 9.65 million students are going to school this calendar year," she said. "Of them, 3.6 million are girls -- an increase of 203,028 girls from the previous year."

Intentionally hindering girls' education

The Taliban act out of ignorance, according to religious scholars.

"The Taliban are unaware of true Islamic doctrine," said Kabul-based religious scholar Salem Hasani. "They are intentionally hindering girls' path to education."

"Islam and the Koran never said anything about preventing women from learning," he told Salaam Times, adding that the Taliban's harsh attitudes impose a very high cost on Afghan women within their reach.

"At this very moment, there is no high school for girls in areas held by the Taliban, since, according to the Taliban, girls may study only between the ages of 7 and 11," Hasani said.

"Islam has never established an age limit for girls or boys to learn," he said. "The Islamic principle is that both women and men can and should study from cradle to grave."

A far cry from Taliban days

Afghan women who obtained an education despite the Taliban's oppression have no time for the militant group's ideas about what they should or should not do.

Even though Afghanistan is embroiled in war and insecurity now, "millions of girls are attending schools and colleges", said Tahmina, a law and political science student at a private university in Kabul.

"Taliban efforts to prevent girls' education are ... systematic and premeditated," she told Salaam Times. "They've burned down hundreds of girls' schools, killed many female educators in some provinces and threatened female university students with murder. Do they have any reasonable justification for their actions?"

"Girls' education is among the greatest achievements of the Afghan government and the international community," she said.

Tahmina started her education after the fall of the Taliban.

"I have working knowledge of computers, the internet and English," she said. "I am proud to study and consider my achievements -- and the achievements of millions of other Afghan girls -- the outcome of the Taliban's collapse and of co-operation with the international community."

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I would like to remind you that almost 80% of Afghans marry their daughters in exchange for money, which is forbidden in the holy religion of Islam. Why did the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan not prohibit people from taking money for marrying their daughters? In no wedding, at the time of making wedlock (Nikah) a religious scholar said NO, I will not lock the wedding because something has been done against the Islamic Sharia in this wedding and he should leave the place. Maybe people won't do this anymore because religious scholar didn't lock the wedding [made Nikah] because money was taken for marrying the girl. This work is forbidden in the holy religion of Islam. If the imam of the mosque of each region in his region announces that we will no longer perform marriage contracts that are against the sharia, i.e. money is taken from the father of the boy, maybe this illegal act will no longer be performed in Afghanistan and the reason is that, imam of the mosque has not closed the marriage because it is forbidden to take money for marrying the girl. I mentioned this point because when it is not a shame for a person to sell his daughter for money, for hundreds of thousands of Afghani, and marry the girl for money, then it is a great shame for the Imams to do this. When someone doesn't feel ashamed about taking money for marrying his daughter, then why should he feel ashamed about sending his daughter to school? When the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan cannot sto


In my opinion, this belongs more with the local customs. All Afghans do not do this. For example, we have five sisters. Our father did not take money for any one of them. Of course, because our economic situation was not very good, for this reason our father told the other party (sisters' in laws) whatever they could afford, they could buy for our sister and take care of the expenses for the wedding party, but our father didn't take the money and did not put it in his pocket or spend it on our family. At the same time, he also bought some things and equipment and belongings for each of our sisters. Our two sisters got married while I had a job. At their wedding, I myself gave each of them three hundred dollars and told them to buy for themselves whatever they wanted. On the other hand, we can say that one is the local custom and the other is badness of the economic condition of many Afghans, as they cannot afford to lose their daughter and spend money from their own pockets.


First of all, I must say that I'm not one of the Taliban militants; rather, I graduated from one of the universities in Kabul. Secondly, Islam is not exclusive to the Islamic Emirate; rather, it is the religion of the entire Muslim Nation [Umma.] Thirdly, the current education system in Afghanistan is definitely rejected in Islam, since there is no such thing as mixed genders education [female and male students in the same classroom] in Islam. Instead of serving the noble religion of Islam, you are destroying it. You are inquiring the opinion of Yunus Fakur about women's education, while he is a communist! Why don't you ask the opinion of such new scholars as Dr. Ayaz Nyazy? I myself am all for women's education, but not in its current form. As a Muslim, do you or do you not accept veil as an Islamic principle? If so, then where is that veil? This religion is as much mine as is yours, the [Afghan] government's and the Taliban's.


In this regards, the Taliban has a legitimate claim. Because, in the filthy laws of Democracy, no girl is safe from being assaulted by filthy people. With the implementation of Sharia laws, however, no filthy individual can even look at our girls in a wrong way.