Founder Of Afghan Girls' School Project Arrested In Kabul

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Kabul: The founder of a project that campaigned for girls' education in Afghanistan has been detained by Taliban authorities in Kabul, his brothers and the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The Taliban government barred girls from attending secondary school and then university last year, making Afghanistan the only country in the world to issue such restrictions on education.

Matiullah Wesa, the head of PenPath, was stopped by men outside a mosque after prayers on Monday evening, his brother Samiullah Wesa told AFP.

"When Matiullah asked for their identity cards, they beat him and forcefully took him away," he said.

"He has been arrested for his activities in the education sector. He never worked with anybody else, neither with the previous government. He only worked for PenPath."

In this photograph taken on May 17, 2022, Matiullah Wesa, head of PenPath and advocate for girls' education in Afghanistan, speaks to children during a class next to his mobile library in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar Province. (Photo by Sanaullah Seiam / AFP)

The UN mission in Afghanistan confirmed on Twitter that Matiullah had been arrested.
Taliban officials have so far not responded to requests for comment.

Samiullah Wesa and another brother, Wali Mohammad, were also arrested later on Tuesday, a fourth brother, Attaullah Wesa, said in a video statement posted on Twitter.

They were "caught, handcuffed and taken away", Attaullah Wesa said.

"We condemn this horrific act, this unlawful act ... We are people of the pen ... we are not going to compromise in our fight," he said, adding that authorities were also looking for him.

PenPath campaigns for schools and distributes books in rural areas. It has long dedicated itself to communicating the importance of girls' education to elders in villages, where attitudes have been slowly changing.

'Gender persecution'

Since the ban on secondary schools for girls, Matiullah Wesa has continued visiting remote areas to drum up support from locals.

"Men, women, elderly, young, everyone from every corner of the country are asking for the Islamic rights to education of their daughters," he said in a tweet hours before his arrest.

He vowed last week, as the new school year started without teenage girls, to continue his campaign.

"The damage that closure of schools causes is irreversible and undeniable. We held meetings with locals and we will continue our protest if the schools remain closed," Matiullah Wesa tweeted.

The Taliban government have imposed an austere interpretation of Islam since storming back to power in August 2021 after the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces that backed the previous governments.

Taliban leaders have repeatedly claimed they will reopen schools for girls once certain conditions have been met.

They say they lack the funds and time to remodel the syllabus along Islamic lines.

Taliban authorities made similar assurances during their first stint in power, from 1996 to 2001, but girls' schools never opened in those five years.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said in a recent speech in Geneva the Taliban authorities' policy was to "repudiate the human rights of women and girls" in Afghanistan.

"It may amount to the crime of gender persecution, for which the authorities can be held accountable," Bennett said.

'Raise your voice'

The order against girls' education is believed to have been made by Afghanistan's supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his ultra-conservative aides, who are deeply sceptical of modern education -- especially for women.

It has stirred criticism from within the movement as well as sparking international outrage, with some senior officials in the Kabul government as well as many rank-and-file members against the decision.

Matiullah Wesa is the second leading educator to be arrested in recent months for campaigning for girls' education.

Authorities detained veteran journalism lecturer Ismail Mashal in February after Afghan media showed him carting books around Kabul and offering them to passersby.

It followed a live appearance on television in which he tore up his degree certificates to condemn the Taliban government's restrictions on women's right to work and education.
Bennett, the UN special rapporteur, expressed alarm at Matiullah Wesa's arrest: "His safety is paramount & all his legal rights must be respected."

Rights group Amnesty International called for his release.

"Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban as de facto authorities have arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured people who peacefully demanded protection of their rights," Amnesty said on Twitter.

Pashtana Zalmai Khan Durrani, the head of Afghan non-profit education provider Learn, said: "Raise your voice for him,".


The Peninsula

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