After Somaya Faruqi, the former captain of the Afghan robotics team for girls, asked UN leaders to protect women’s education and rights in Afghanistan one year after taking over the Taliban, Somaya Faruqi burst into tears behind the scenes.
“I was in the classroom last year but girls aren’t in the classroom this year. The classrooms are empty and they’re in their homes. So it was too hard to control myself and control my feelings,” Faruqi, 20 years old, told Reuters news agency.
Faruqi, who is now attending Missouri University of Science and Technology, left Afghanistan in August last year when the Taliban took power and the United States and its allies withdrew their forces after a 20-year war.
Speaking at the UN in New York this week as world leaders gather for the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, she urged them to unite and demand the reopening of girls’ schools and the protection of their rights.
“Don’t let me and my Afghan sisters become victims of world politics.” My massage today at @UN. @UNICEF @unwomenchief @MalalaFund pic.twitter.com/lesAC2mB5T
— Somaya Faruqi (@FaruqiSomaya) September 19, 2022
“This week, you’re all here to suggest solutions to change education for everyone, but you can’t forget the ones who’ve left behind, the ones who aren’t lucky enough to even be in school,” Faruqi said. “Show your solidarity with me and millions of Afghan girls.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot dead by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012 as she was leaving school, scolded heads of state for lack of action.
“Most of you know exactly what needs to be done. They must not make small, stingy and short-term promises, but must commit themselves to maintaining the right to complete training and closing the funding gap once and for all,” Yousafzai said on Monday.
Last year, she pleaded with the world not to compromise on protecting Afghan women’s rights following the takeover of the Taliban.
‘Remove all restrictions’
The Taliban say women should not leave home without a male relative and must cover their faces, although some women in urban centers ignore the rule.
In March, the Taliban made a U-turn on the promise to open high schools for girls. Most teenage girls now have no access to classrooms and thousands of women have been forced out of the workforce due to stricter restrictions and Afghanistan’s economic crisis, according to international development agencies.
The Taliban say that they respect women’s rights as interpreted in Islamic law and that they have been working to open high schools for girls since March.
the Transforming Education Summit on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to the Taliban to “immediately lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education.”
“Educating girls is one of the most important steps towards creating peace, security and sustainable development everywhere,” said Guterres.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday opened the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience, a partnership between the State Department and Boston University that aims to promote entrepreneurship and educational opportunities for Afghan women and expand job opportunities Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“Women, no matter where they live, should have equal rights in all facets of their lives,” said Blinken. “This should come naturally to everyone on the planet in 2022. But of course it isn’t, and we must fight for it. We must fight for it every day.”
Rina Amiri, US Special Representative for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights, said the initiative will face many challenges. Instability, lack of security and financial chaos will weigh on all attempts to support women’s re-entry into Afghan society. “What we want to show is that there is resilience,” she said.
Fereshteh Forough, CEO of Code to Inspire, the first programming school for women and girls in Afghanistan, said at the Allianz event that she must close her school and move on to online learning after taking over the Taliban.
She burst into tears when she said that 80 percent of students had gone back to school remotely and that the school was able to obtain conditional reopening approval from the Taliban from Monday.
“We were able to get 300 girls to take an entrance exam and come to our graphic design school. It’s just unbelievable how difficult it was this year,” she said tearfully. “The text messages I received from the girls were heartbreaking.”