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'Girls and boys are born equal': Afghan-Australians' shock at Taliban's extended school ban

Omid Nezami with Afghan school children before the Taliban imposed a ban on girls attending high school. Source: Omid Nezami

Afghan-Australians have reacted with shock at the Taliban regime’s decision last week to extend the ban on high-school-aged girls attending school.

On Wednesday last week, the Taliban's de-facto government in Afghanistan announced that schools would remain closed to high school-aged girls across the country until a plan was drawn up that will allow for their education to proceed in accordance with Islamic Sharia Law.

Sydney-based musician Omid Nezami and fashion designer Lida Mangal both shared their disbelief at the decision with SBS Pashto over the weekend.

"Well, once again Taliban’s Administration failed to recognise and acknowledge women’s rights," Ms Mangal said.

"The Taliban failed to stand on their promises or provide equal opportunities to women.

"Honestly, I’m not surprised because the Taliban have not changed, and their ideology will never change."

Girls and teachers protest the Taliban's decision not to reopen schools
Girls and teachers in Kabul protest the Taliban's decision not to reopen schools
AAP Image/EPA/STRINGER

The news came as a surprise after an earlier indication from the country’s education authorities that all Afghan children would be able to return to school.

The last-minute decision left hundreds of girls distressed and crying as they were literally turned away at school gates across the beleaguered nation.


Highlights

  • Afghan-Australians express dismay over Taliban's continued ban on girls' education
  • The extension represents a reneging of a promise the Taliban gave
  • Girls seen crying after being turned away at school gates

Musician has been a vocal critic of school bans

While still living in Afghanistan, Mr Nezami wrote and sang a song calling for girls' education which later went viral around the world. 

He said the extension of the ban was a step backwards.

He has been a vocal critic of the fact that girls were banned from school in the areas of the country under Taliban control.

“News that the ban on girls attending high school was shocking not just for me but for the millions of Afghan people all around the world,” he said.

"We are the only people in the world begging for education, but it seems those in power in Afghanistan don’t know the value of education."

We must keep our voices always raised against them until we all together can convince them to understand that men and women, boys and girls are born equal.

Mr Nezami was raised, studied and graduated in Kabul where he later worked as an inflight supervisor for Ariana Afghan Airlines from 2002 until 2014. He emigrated to Australia in 2014.

He participated in Afghanistan’s most-watched TV show and singing competition, "Afghan Star", in Season 3 which was held in 2008 after which he worked as a radio presenter from 2009-2014.

From 2013, he presented a live morning TV program and hosted “The Voice of Afghanistan”.

Omid Nezami was a famous singer in Afghanistan
Omid Nezami used his public profile as a singer and TV host to protest the Taliban's ban on girls' education
Omid Nizami
 

“After 2001 when the Taliban was kicked out of power and girls were allowed to go to school all over Afghanistan, there were still people who didn’t let them in those areas under Taliban control,” Mr Nezami said.

In response to the fact that not all girls in Afghanistan were able to go to school, he said he started to make albums of educational music from 2011 with the theme of universal education for boys and girls.

“I have written eight songs, four of them are audio plus video and the rest are only audio tracks,” he said.

“The album was such an Influence among thousands of families, kids and parents with the songs were being played on TV channels, radio, and in schools."

School ban contradicts the teachings of Islam

Sydney-based fashion designer, women’s rights advocate and women’s health trainer Ms Mangal echoed Mr Nezami’s dismay at the Taliban’s extended ban.

Sydney-based fashion designer and women's rights and health advocate Lida Mangal
Fashion designer and women's rights and women's health advocate Lida Mangal
@ghan.fashion.

She said there was no justification for the ban in Islam.

“I do believe there is no such a law either Islamic or any international law to stop or cease your basic rights to go to school based on your gender. This is obvious discrimination against women’s rights," she said.

“This decision of Taliban is against women’s rights and women’s progress.

“They do not agree with any type of women’s movements, freedom, or women’s presence in school, university, public or private sectors."

They use Islam as means to stop us from progress.

She said the Taliban had far more important issues to focus on rather than ceasing women’s and girl’s freedom and movement.

Lida Mangal
Lida Mangal is a fashion designer in Sydney
@ghan.fashion.
 

Ms Mangal, who completed a degree in e-commerce in Sydney in 2005 after receiving a scholarship, said Islam instructed its followers, both men and women, to seek education.

Islam says knowledge is light. Light is for everyone not only men.

Afghan people and Australians had to stand in solidarity and call on the international community to stop the violence and discrimination towards women, she said.

“I kindly ask the international community to not recognise the Taliban, until women rights are recognised, and they are treated equally and have equal rights and opportunities in both public and private sectors."

Taliban reneged on promise to allow girls access to high school

The decision to keep older girls out of school was made in the southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, during a high-level leadership meeting in the presence of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Education for girls was one of the international community's key demands in return for the Taliban's future reorganisation as a government.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan by force on August 15 when then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country but no country formally recognised the Taliban.

In a joint statement, the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, as well as the High Representative of the European Union, condemned the decision of the Taliban to not reopen high schools in Afghanistan for girls.