‘They want to cheat women’: Afghans feel betrayed as Taliban continues to ban girls attending secondary school

At the end of three days of talks and speeches from Taliban leaders and Islamic Scholars at the Grand Council meeting in Kabul there was a sense of deflation and betrayal.

In the summary of resolutions from clerics at the gathering, to the disappointment of many, there was no announcement about girls education and the possibility of allowing them to return to full-time education.

After trailing that an announcement was on its way, the Taliban didn't make the decision to let secondary school girls attend after banning them when they came to power last year.

It was a decision that caused uproar amongst the international community, human rights campaigners and within the organisation itself.

Many local leaders across Afghanistan believe it's against Islam to ban girls from getting education and have called on the Taliban leadership to revert their decision.


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Elaha and her sister Elhama should both be in secondary school studying for crucial exams but the Taliban U-turn means they're both now at home learning from each other in their bedrooms rather than a classroom.

Elaha, 16, told Sky News: "I remember that moment the Taliban blocked us from going to school. It was a very bad moment and sad moment because we need education for the future, for a life and we need a job.

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"I'll have to tell people I couldn't go to school, I don't have an education because the Taliban didn't let me."

Reacting to the news of the grand council meeting, she added: "I don't trust them and I can never trust them because they break every promise they make to the people.

"They said women will work in every ministry but that's not true. They said every girl can go to school, but that's not true – I just don't understand them."

Image: Elaha (R) and her sister Elhama (L)

And how do you make primary school girls understand? At a school in Kabul the children in 6th grade are scared and sad they won't be going to class next year. But it's a policy that's painful for teachers too.

Fatima Amid recently graduated from university, she's now a teacher at the school in District 3, and it's left to her to tell her female students they can't return for high school classes.

"We are not women from 20 years ago," she tells us. "The Taliban want to calm all women down by saying today we'll open the schools, tomorrow we'll open the schools or one month after – but nothing happens at the end of the day. They want to cheat all the women of Afghanistan."

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'It's really sad for the women of Afghanistan' 0:40

Fatima told Sky News that it is 'really sad' and 'really shameful' for the Taliban government

The international community will also feel cheated.

Western governments like the US and UK are relying on the Taliban government to overturn their decision so diplomatic discussions and relations can improve.

When the decision was made last year to ban girls from school, Afghanistan was isolated by most of the world, billions of dollars of assets were frozen, so when a big earthquake hit the Paktika province last week the international response was limited.

Image: Teacher Fatima Amid

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Some Taliban officials saw it as a wake up call as they witnessed their country struggle to cope following a major natural disaster.

Women on the streets of Kabul told us how they were disappointed, sad and angry to not hear anything about girls education during the three-day meeting.

"It's very painful," one student told us. "They just don't agree with our rights."

Another woman added: "I saw the Taliban 20 years ago, there's no difference this time round, in fact, they're even worse."

The Taliban were adamant they were going to fulfil their promise.

Deputy spokesperson Bilal Karimi told Sky News: "Right now there are millions of boys and girls going to schools and universities, the school doors aren't closed. The decisions of this meeting were made by the Islamic clerics and not the Taliban government. We are still reviewing this policy."

But once again at the heart of today's political decision-making are millions of young women and girls across Afghanistan – for them hope is in short supply.

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