Turkey urges Taliban to resume girls’ education in Afghanistan

Turkey has called on the Taliban-led caretaker government in Afghanistan to allow girls of all ages to attend school after it announced its decision to suspend education for female students after sixth grade.

“We regret the continued restriction of girls’ participation in secondary education in the new school term which began in Afghanistan today,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We call on the interim government of Afghanistan to enable girls of all ages to participate in inclusive education as soon as possible, first and foremost for the benefit of the Afghan people, and emphasize that we will continue to support the Afghan people in these difficult days.”

Educational institutions in Afghanistan reopened on Wednesday after a hiatus of nearly seven months.

The girls attended classes, but those above sixth grade were then asked to stay home. Authorities said girls’ high schools will remain closed until a plan is developed “in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture”, according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency.

The United Nations has expressed “grave concern” and “disappointment” over the closure of secondary schools for female students.

“Education is a basic human right and is essential for Afghanistan to emerge from the economic crisis and create a strong social fabric,” said Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan and head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The move is sure to disrupt Taliban efforts to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a deepening humanitarian crisis. The international community has urged Taliban leaders to reopen schools and give women their right to public space.

The turnaround was so sudden that the Ministry of Education was caught off guard on Wednesday when school began, as were schools in parts of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and elsewhere in the country. Some upperclass girls went back to school, only to be told to go home.

Aid organizations said the move has heightened uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future as Taliban leaders appear to struggle to get on the same page as they transition from combat to government.

It also came as leaders gathered in Kandahar amid reports of a possible cabinet reshuffle.

The Taliban returned to power after 20 years of war with foreign forces that left Afghanistan last August.

The withdrawal led to the collapse of Kabul’s US-backed administration, paving the way for the Taliban to enter the capital.

After taking power, the Taliban said they asked all countries, mainly Turkey, to help the Afghan people and Afghanistan.

The Turkish government has taken a pragmatic approach to recent events in Afghanistan. Stressing that new realities have emerged in the country, Ankara said it would move forward accordingly while keeping communication open with all relevant actors.

Turkey has held regular talks with the Taliban in Kabul, where it still has a diplomatic presence, on the terms under which it could help operate Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport.

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