brown89_ MOHSEN KARIMIAFP via Getty Images_afghanistan protests MOHSEN KARIMI/AFP via Getty Images

Afghanistan’s Girls and Women Fight Back

A year of regressive Taliban policies and a spate of terrorist attacks targeting female students have sparked protests across Afghanistan. The international community must stand with Afghan women demanding their fundamental right to receive an education and ensure that Afghan girls are allowed to return safely to secondary schools.

LONDON – Thousands of women and girls have taken to the streets of Afghanistan’s cities to protest the repeated violation of their right to an education. The trigger for the protests – occurring simultaneously with protests in Iran – was last month’s terrorist attack on an education center in Kabul that killed 53 students and injured more than 110 – most of them girls and young women. But this was just the latest in a long series of attacks against female students, many of which targeted girls from the Hazara community.

September’s deadly attack, which occurred as female students were getting ready to take a practice university entrance exam, came on the heels of an extremely damaging year for girls’ education in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan following the US military’s withdrawal in August 2021, its leaders promised to keep all primary, secondary, and tertiary schools open for both boys and girls. But it soon reneged. In March of this year, it barred girls from attending school beyond the sixth grade, effectively revoking the right to learn. When women in Kabul and other cities protested, Taliban forces responded violently, beating protesters and firing warning shots over their heads. Most of the 1,880 girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan are currently shuttered, and the Taliban has threatened to close those that remain in operation.