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Academic year begins in Afghanistan but girls over 12 still shut out

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Girls’ schools in Afghanistan beyond grade six (age 12) are staying closed for the third consecutive year even as officials announced the start of the new school year on Wednesday.

The Taliban’s education minister, Habibullah Agha, and other high-ranking officials marked the start of the new school year at a ceremony in Kabul’s Amani High School.

At the event, none of the officials spoke about any plans for schools for girls beyond grade six.

Female journalists were barred from attending the ceremony. The invitation sent out to reporters stated: “Due to the lack of a suitable place … we apologize to female reporters.”

Former Afghan leaders Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah issued separate messages calling on the Taliban to allow girls to pursue secondary and university education with the start of the Persian New Year.

Farsila, a 12-year-old in grade six, told dpa: “I want to record the best memories for myself and my friends at school this year, because it may not happen again.”

Since returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban has banned girls and women from studying beyond primary school. However, in some parts of the country, women and girls still attend religious schools, as well as midwifery and nursing schools.

The Taliban authorities are not recognized internationally and are demanding the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s central bank assets, and the removal of sanctions and other measures imposed against their government.

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