We really shouldn’t be surprised by developments such as the one Caroline Downey reports today:
The Taliban has decided to cancel plans to offer schooling to girls above the sixth grade, backtracking on an earlier pledge in an effort to pacify its Islamic fundamentalist base in the rural countryside of Afghanistan.
Waheedullah Hashmi, external relations and donor representative with the Taliban, informed the Associated Press of the news Wednesday.
“It was late last night that we received word from our leadership that schools will stay closed for girls,” said Hashmi. “We don’t say they will be closed forever.”
But the tilting of Afghan society back into the theocratic abyss is no less tragic. The New Taliban™ have a habit of promising the barest minimum for women’s rights and then pulling back at the last moment, citing some excuse or another. (This time, it involves school uniforms.)
Recall this headline in the Washington Post back in September: “The Taliban said it would respect women’s rights. Then it abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.”
Around the time Kabul and the rest of the country fell to Taliban forces, a spokesman urged women to stay home from work despite assurances they could continue to go, since men still needed training on how to not hurt them.
The devastated reaction from young, female students today to the Taliban’s latest reversal is a reliable indicator of how much they trust the implication that it’s only temporary. From the New York Times:
The news was crushing to the over one million high school-aged girls who had been raised in an era of opportunity for women before the Taliban seized power in August last year — and who had woken up thrilled to be returning to classes on Wednesday.
One 12th-grade student in Kabul said the decision had stamped out her last bit of hope that she could achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer.
“Education was the only way to give us some hope in these times of despair, and it was the only right we hoped for, and it has been taken away,” the student, Zahra Rohani, 15, said. . . .
Across the capital, Kabul, many girls had arrived at high schools on Wednesday morning excited to return to the campuses, and some schools did open, at least briefly. But as news spread that the Taliban had reversed their decision, many left in tears.
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