Women's Rights

Afghan girls face growing mental health problems as school ban persists

By Muhammad Qasem and AFP

Deena Rahimi, a 12th grade student from a secondary school, reacts during an interview at her residence in Kabul on March 21. Afghanistan's schools reopened on March 21 for the new academic year, but no classes were held as students were unaware of the start and hundreds of thousands of teenage girls remain barred from attending class. [Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

Deena Rahimi, a 12th grade student from a secondary school, reacts during an interview at her residence in Kabul on March 21. Afghanistan's schools reopened on March 21 for the new academic year, but no classes were held as students were unaware of the start and hundreds of thousands of teenage girls remain barred from attending class. [Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP]

MAZAR-E-SHARIF -- Mental health specialists are blaming a ban on girls' and women's schooling for an increase in incidents of psychological issues and anxiety among girls in northern Afghanistan.

The prevalence of mental health issues among women and young girls has increased and dozens of them visit the hospital daily for consultation and treatment, said Dr. Atiqullah Safa, a mental health specialist at Mazar-e-Sharif regional hospital.

Most of the patients are former students, he said. "They return home after receiving a doctor's prescription and advice."

"Women suffer from psychological issues due to the ongoing restrictions and their inability to adapt to the current situation," Safa said. "We hope that conditions for women improve in the country so that they no longer experience such suffering."

Afghan women wait to receive food aid from the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority in Herat on March 2. Banning women from schools, universities and work outside the home is having devastating and lasting repercussions on the economy and society as a whole, observers warn. [Mohsen Karimi/AFP]

Afghan women wait to receive food aid from the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority in Herat on March 2. Banning women from schools, universities and work outside the home is having devastating and lasting repercussions on the economy and society as a whole, observers warn. [Mohsen Karimi/AFP]

Afghan women on March 8 stage a protest for their rights to mark International Women's Day in Kabul. [AFP]

Afghan women on March 8 stage a protest for their rights to mark International Women's Day in Kabul. [AFP]

Shamsia, 18, who should be an 11th grade student at Bakhtar High School in Mazar-e-Sharif, said she has lost hope about her future.

"I am very concerned about what will happen to my 11 years of effort if our school is not reopened," she said.

"I have had bad dreams every night," Shamsia said. "I went to the hospital several times, and doctors prescribed me medication for depression and anxiety. However, the medications have no effect on me."

"Whenever I remember my classmates and school, I just start weeping and cannot sleep properly."

Futures destroyed

Shamsia is not alone. Many Afghan women and girls are frustrated about their uncertain future.

"I feel my three and half years of studies have gone to waste and my efforts were just for nothing," said Sayara Asadi, 25, who should be entering her fourth year studying economics at Kunduz University.

"I was determined to pursue my master's degree and serve my country," she said. "However, my dreams have all been destroyed."

"I have now lost hope and aspirations. I cannot concentrate on studying, but I think about my future," she added.

"My hope for education and the future was destroyed. All my dreams and goals are lost."

Zarlasht Azizi, 24, would have graduated from Takhar University with a degree in education in two months, but she is now living in an uncertain situation.

"I was hoping to graduate in two months and get my diploma, but everything is gone," she said last Tuesday (March 21). "Now I don't know what the future holds for me."

"Only my mother supported me in pursuing my education. Even my father and brothers opposed my study," said Zarlasht, who went through many obstacles to attend university despite her family's opposition.

"Now I feel alone and deeply worried and sad about my dark future," she said.

'A historic tragedy'

Society needs educated women working as teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, judges and security personnel, say Afghans.

"In a country where poverty and unemployment are widespread, policies and decisions should be focused on how to address those underlying issues, rather than worsening the situation and depriving women of education," said Samira Nasiry, 36, a women's rights activist in Baghlan province.

"Women have proved over the past two decades that they are capable of undertaking any social activity," she said.

"Seeking education is an obligation for both female and male Muslims," she added. "This divine duty is due to the importance of education in human life. Women must study so that they can address the problems of women in society."

The exclusion of women from education is a setback to Afghanistan's economic growth, said Habibullah Maqsodi, 45, a sociologist in Kunduz province.

"Educated women can make the labour force more productive and effective on one hand and on the other will help educate many children in society who do not have the opportunity otherwise," he said.

"Depriving women of seeking education is a historic tragedy, the negative consequences of which will impact our future generation," he said.

"Prohibiting women from seeking education aggravates poverty and unemployment. It will also hinder economic growth and development," Maqsodi said.

"Closing universities and schools to women and girls is an irreparable blow to human capital and economic growth."

Calls to respect women's rights

Afghanistan is currently the "most repressive country in the world" for women's rights, the United Nations (UN) said March 8 as world leaders issued a joint call demanding improvements.

Foreign ministers of 21 countries and the European Union issued a joint statement that said Afghanistan "has seen one of the steepest declines globally in respect for the human rights of women and girls".

"Unless reversed, the harmful effects of these reprehensible measures will be devastating and irreparable for Afghanistan's economy and society -- effects that will be felt by every Afghan," they said.

More than half of Afghanistan's 38 million people are facing hunger and nearly four million children suffer from malnutrition, aid agencies say.

The crisis was compounded late last year when Afghan women were banned from working with NGOs, forcing several aid agencies to suspend their vital work.

Women are also barred from going to parks, funfairs, gyms and public baths, and ordered to cover up in public -- ideally with a burqa.

Some Afghan women have staged sporadic protests against the bans -- risking arrest, violence and social stigma for taking part -- but authorities usually disperse them swiftly.

Do you like this article?

4 Comment

Comment Policy * Denotes required field 1500 / 1500

The Taliban has moved around the women since they took over power. Women are mentioned in every meeting. Sometimes they talk about their headscarves, then about their hijab, sometimes, they speak about their Burqa, and sometimes they reach even to their pants. In a program where many Taliban leaders come, I was also present there. They were speaking basely and uselessly, and they mentioned the women in every two words of five words. So the thing is that the Taliban know only that the women are to fulfill their sexual desires, and that's it.

Reply

We miserable people either excess or indulge. During the 20 years of the republic, moral corruption reached its peak, which made it possible for Pakistan's intelligence agencies to brainwash our mullahs [Afghan Taliban] and make them understand that girls' schools are also places of moral corruption. For this reason, our mullahs, who currently hold the power of the entire Afghanistan, they decided to close the gates of schools and universities to Afghan girls. This is despite the fact that if one educational hour of a country, a university, a school, a class and even a person is wasted, it will harm the whole country. May God guide the current rulers of Afghanistan to open girls' schools for them, and not allow our young and future generations to grow up without knowledge.

Reply

The poor girls of Afghanistan are worried about their future, that's why they suffer from mental illness. The girls of grade 7 to 12 are all sitting at home and thinking about their future. Each of these girls has thousands of wishes and the wishes of these poor girls were destroyed by the current government. Each of these girls is very dedicated to school and is currently sitting day and night waiting for the gates of the schools to opened for them today or tomorrow, but there is no hope of opening the school gates for girls. Girls sit idle in their homes and think about their future, that's why most of the girls are suffering from mental illness. I request the government of the Islamic Emirate to reconsider their decision as soon as possible and win the hearts of the girls.

Reply

The Taliban are very unpromising people. Ever since they have come, they have been talking about positive changes in various areas, but now, almost two years of their government have passed, they are saying the same old nonsense and have not fulfilled a single promise. They closed the schools saying that the plan was being worked on, then closed the universities for girls. At that time, they said that schools and universities would be open for girls in 1402, but this is the 10th of the solar month. Their purpose is to make people illiterate. I recently watched Zabihullah Mujahid's interview with Voice of America. With his dirty mouth, he repeated the exact words as work is going on a plan; however, this decedent of Pharaoh does not say that the Afghan generation will fall into ignorance due to the lack of literacy, but they don't care because the sons and daughters of the Taliban live in other countries, study, work, eat and drink...

Reply