27 December 2023
Bahara Rustam is 13 years old. She took her last class at Bibi Razia School in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 11 knowing it was the end of her education. Under Afghan law, she is unlikely to ever step foot in a classroom again.
In September 2021, the country's ruling Taliban announced that females would be barred from education after sixth grade, or about age 13. The government said it was acting in line with Islamic religious law.
The United States and NATO troops had withdrawn from Afghanistan a month earlier, after 20 years of war.
In December 2022, the restrictive measure was expanded to include university education.
The international community has continued to condemn the Taliban for the actions. Countries have warned the Taliban that it its actions will bar it from gaining international recognition as a lawful government.
Last week, United Nations special diplomat for Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva appeared before the UN Security Council. She said she worried that a generation of Afghan girls is falling behind with each day that passes.
An Afghan Education Ministry said last week that girls of all ages are permitted to study in religious schools called madrassas. They have traditionally been boys-only.
The UN is trying to confirm the ministry's statement. But Otunbayeva said it was unclear if that education system included wider study of non-religious subjects.
For now, Bahara is holding onto her education and looks over school books at home. "Graduating (from sixth grade) means we are going to seventh grade," she said. "But all of our classmates cried and we were very disappointed," she added.
There was no graduation ceremony for the girls at Bibi Razia School.
In another part of Kabul, 13-year old Setayesh Sahibzada wonders what the future holds for her. She is sad she cannot go to school anymore to follow her dreams.
"I can't stand on my own two feet," she said. "I wanted to be a teacher. But now I can't study, I can't go to school."
Researcher Muhammad Saleem Paigir warned that banning women and girls from education would be disastrous for Afghanistan. "We understand that illiterate people can never be free and prosperous," he said.
The Taliban have banned women from many public spaces and most jobs, all but keeping women inside their homes.
I'm Gregory Stachel.
Mohammad Habib Rahmani reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
graduate – v. to earn a degree or diploma from a school, college, or university
disappointed – adj. feeling sad, unhappy, or displeased because something was not as good as expected or because something you hoped for or expected did not happen
illiterate – adj. not knowing how to read or write
prosperous – adj. having success usually by making a lot of money