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Dreams in suspense: Afghan girls, women desperate to return to class

KABUL, November 3 (Reuters) – To fill her days and occupy her mind, university student Hawa sits by the window of her Kabul home, eyeing a book.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghan girls and young women, the 20-year-old Russian literature student has not been allowed to return to school since the Taliban seized power in mid-August.

And like many of her peers, she feels a mixture of frustration and anger that her aspirations to study and work are thwarted.

“We were not born to sit at home,” Hawa told Reuters at her family’s home in the Afghan capital, where she was locked up spending her days drawing, reading and doing household chores.

“If we can raise babies, we can provide for our families as well. In this situation, I don’t see my dreams come true.

(Open in an external browser to see a set of images of Afghan women and girls unable to study)

The hard-line Islamist Taliban movement, which seized power earlier this year after overthrowing the Western-backed government, allowed all boys and girls to return to class, but did not allow girls to attend high school.

Most public universities do not function at all, or only partially.

Authorities have tried to assure Afghans and foreign donors that people’s rights will be respected, including allowing girls to go to school and women to study and work once details of how to do so in accordance with Islamic law will be disclosed.

They also blamed the international community for cutting off aid, making it more difficult to finance the reopening of schools and universities for all.

More than three months into their reign this has not happened, and some are skeptical of a group that, in their last term from 1996 to 2001, banned all girls from d ‘go to school and women to have paid employment.


Less than 40% of Afghan girls attended secondary school in 2018, even if it was allowed then, according to the most recent figures from UNESCO.

Much of the country remains deeply conservative, despite 20 years of a Western-backed regime and billions of dollars in foreign aid aimed in part to promote equality and civil rights.

But in urban centers in particular, girls and women have enjoyed more freedoms since 2001, and they are reluctant to let them go.

“Those of us who went to college and also had jobs, were helping our families, of course nothing will come from us, because they (the Taliban) say that everything we studied in the last 20 past years is pointless, ”Hawa said.

Across town, 17-year-old Sahar is also stuck at home. She wants to become an engineer, but, for now at least, has to learn at home as best she can.

“I try to continue my lessons at home but nevertheless the environment at school, the classroom, our friends and our teachers is something different from being at home.”

She proudly showed Reuters her old classroom – a school principal there that day allowed Sahar to enter.

“I would love to come back to my classroom, resume my studies, be with my classmates and my teachers,” she said, gazing wistfully at the room where the desks and benches were collecting dust.

When his younger brother and sister come home from school every day, Sahar helps them with their homework.

“They… come home and do their homework, talk about their classmates and their studies. But I’m sad inside that I can’t go to school on my own.”

Her 10-year-old sister Hadia noticed that some of her former teachers and classmates are no longer there – she assumes they were among the thousands of Afghans who fled Kabul in the chaotic weeks that followed. the conquest of the Taliban.

Even at her age, she recognizes the difficulties ahead.

“I’m in 4th grade. I want to be a doctor, but if in two years I don’t have the right to continue my studies like my sister, I won’t be able to fulfill my dream,” said Hadia. “It already scares me.”

Written and edited by Mike Collett-White

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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