Dozens of women and girls in Afghanistan protested on the streets of Kabul on Saturday to call for the Taliban to reopen schools for girls.
The Taliban reopened secondary schools on Wednesday after winter break but broke a promise to allow girls above sixth grade to return to classrooms.
Girls in Afghanistan had been prevented from attending secondary schools since the Taliban took control of the country in August after U.S. forces withdrew.
The Taliban, which previously ruled the country from 1996 until after United States forces entered the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had previously banned women from education.
However, the Islamic fundamentalist group said its latest decision was based on a lack of school uniforms that comply with Sharia law, according to Voice of America.
“I was going to study in grade 11, but unfortunately, when the Taliban came to power, our schools were closed,” Fatima, one of the protesters, told Afghan outlet TOLO News. “As the boys have the right to education, we girls also have the right.”
The decision by the Taliban to not allow girls to return to school was condemned by the United States and other international governments, indicating that the “de facto” regime would find it difficult to prove itself as a “respected” government on the international stage with such decisions.
“The de facto authorities’ failure to adhere to commitments to reopen schools for girls above the sixth grade — in spite of repeated commitments towards girls’ education, including during my visit to Kabul two weeks ago — is deeply damaging for Afghanistan,” said Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement.
On Friday, the United States called off planned meetings with the Taliban at the Doha Forum in Qatar.
“We have canceled some of our engagements, including planned meetings in Doha around the Doha Forum, and have made clear that we see this decision as a potential turning point in our engagement,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Friday.
“This decision by the Taliban, if it is not swiftly reversed, will profoundly harm the Afghan people, the country’s prospects for economic growth, and the Taliban’s ambition to improve their relations with the international community.”