School will resume Saturday in Afghanistan for grades seven through 12, the Taliban announced Friday in a statement. The message of the next sentence was clear: "All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions." Girls and the women who teach them apparently are left out, making Afghanistan the only nation in the world to prohibit female students from achieving a secondary education, the Guardian reports. Education for primary students has resumed, but older students have had to stay home for a month, during the Taliban's takeover of the country.
The Taliban's commitment to allowing girls and women to resume their educations, albeit with restrictions, lasted less than a week. A similar strategy was used in the 1990s, when the Taliban barred girls from school without issuing a formal prohibition. "Education and literacy are so strongly valued in Islam that the Taliban could not ban girls schools on Islamic grounds, so they always said they would open them when security improved," said Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. "It never did." That essentially drove female education underground, to small classes in homes and schools in provinces that were run by charities.
And it added an element of danger to schools. "There was always the fear that they could be closed in a moment. Or that teachers would be beaten or detained," Clark said. "This happened." The Taliban has reinforced its point by turning the Kabul building that used to house the ministry of women’s affairs over to the revived ministry for the prevention of vice and promotion of virtue, per the Guardian. In the Taliban's previous reign, that ministry was an enforcer that was charged with beating women who broke the rules by being seen in public without a male guardian or wearing high heels.
A resolution unanimously passed the UN Security Council on Friday calling on the Taliban to ensure "the full, equal and meaningful participation of women" in Afghanistan's government. The interim government just announced excludes women and minorities, raising fears that the Taliban—though they've said otherwise—will revert to the uncompromising practices of their rule that ended 20 years ago. The resolution also keeps the UN political mission in Afghanistan for another six months, per the AP. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)