Banned from school, Afghan girls turn to madrassas

In a madrassa in the Afghan capital, rows of teenage girls rock back and forth reciting verses of the Koran under the watchful eye of a religious scholar.

The number of Islamic schools has grown across Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, with teenage girls increasingly attending classes after they were banned from secondary schools.

"We were depressed because we were denied an education," said 16-year-old Farah, a veil covering her face and hair.

"It's then that my family decided I should at least come here. The only open place for us now is a madrassa."

Instead of maths and literature, the girls focus on rote-learning the Koran in Arabic -- a language most of them don't understand.

Those who want to learn the meaning of the verses study separately, where a teacher translates and explains the text in their local language.

AFP visited three madrassas in Kabul and in the southern city of Kandahar, where scholars said the numbers of girl students have doubled since last year.

For Farah, her ambition of becoming a lawyer was dashed when Taliban authorities blocked girls from secondary school -- and months later banned women from attending university.

"Everyone's dreams are lost," she said.

Still, Farah -- whose real name has been changed to protect her identity like other students AFP interviewed for this story -- counts herself lucky in that her parents allowed her to attend classes at all.

The Taliban government adheres to an austere interpretation of Islam.

Rulings are passed down by the reclusive supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada and his inner circle of religious advisers, who are against education for girls and women, some officials say.


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