Boys in grades 7-12 returned to school in Afghanistan on Saturday for the first time in months, but girls of the same age did not, as they effectively remain banned from going to class by the Taliban.
The group has suggested it would allow girls to return to secondary school once the country's security situation eases, but there's widespread speculation that those are empty words. The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they never formally banned girls' education, but maintained throughout their reign that it wasn't safe for them to attend.
Heather Barr, the associate director of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division, told The Wall Street Journal the current situation "feels very familiar" to the period between 1996 and 2001 when Afghan women and girls "were told to be patient and wait for a day that never came." Now, she said, there is once again "no reason for much optimism that this ban will end."
Primary school-aged girls are allowed back in school, though they'll be taught separately from boys, and some private universities have also been given the go ahead to open gender-segregated classrooms. Still, many female students have opted against attending out of fear, the Journal reports.
The latest developments may suggest the more moderate, pragmatic voices within the Taliban are losing out to hard-liners in policy fights at the moment, Mabouba Suraj, the head of the Afghan Women's Network, told The Associated Press. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.