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Malala calls for unity on Afghan girls’ education

Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai has urged Muslim countries to condemn the Taliban’s ban on girls’ secondary education in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have put an indefinite ban on secondary school education for Afghan girls. Photo: Qatar National Library

"Muslim countries should unite and say that in Islam, girls can not be prohibited from education"

On March 23, the Taliban placed a ban on secondary school education for girls, only hours after the reopening of schools in the country. No reason was given for the indefinite decision, which prohibits girls above the sixth grade being allowed to go to school until the Taliban put in place policies they say are compliant with “principles of Islamic law and Afghan culture,”.

Speaking at a panel discussion for Doha Debates, Yousafzai commented that few countries have made a clear statement against the decision.

“I think it is really important for Muslim countries to come together and say what it means. Muslim countries should unite and say that in Islam, girls cannot be prohibited from education. They [the Taliban] cannot use Islam for that purpose anymore,” she said.

“When I was myself in that position, when the Taliban in Pakistan had banned girls’ education, I was 11 years old, I woke up on January 15, 2009, and I could not go to school. It is not just one day, one week or one month.

“Think for a second, what does it mean if you never go to school? Today, I am a graduate, I completed my studies and I continue to study. I always look back and I ask myself, ‘what if I had never been back in school? What if I never received my education?’ My life would have been completely different,” Yousafzai added.

“It could happen to any of us. It could have been the story of any of us here”

“It could happen to any of us. It could have been the story of any of us here,” said Yousafzai.

Answering a question on whether or not the Taliban should be negotiated with, Yousafzai commented that “girls’ education should be a non-negotiable condition for any recognition of the Taliban”.

“We are not asking for 50/50 parliament here. We are not asking them to elect a woman president or prime minister. We are asking for some very basic human rights,” she added.

The Afghan girls robotics team, which was invited to Qatar by the Qatar Foundation after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, was present at the event, including Sadaf Hamidi who gave an impassioned speech.

“Our success will be a warning,” said Hamidi. “It will be a notice to those who are banning girls from going to school.”

The panel discussion took place in Qatar National Library and was live-streamed to a global audience.

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