Amid UN criticism, Taliban appoint new education minister

ISLAMABAD — The Taliban have appointed a new education minister for Afghanistan, days after the United Nations called on the country’s new leaders to reopen schools for girls beyond sixth grade.

Since taking power in Afghanistan just over a year ago, the Taliban have restricted girls’ rights to education, despite initial promises to the contrary. The United Nations estimates that more than one million girls have been barred from attending most middle and high schools over the past year.

The appointment, which came on Tuesday evening and was announced by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujaihid, named Habibullah Agha, the current head of the Kandahar Provincial Council, as the new education minister, replacing Noorullah Munir. . The first education minister appointed by the Taliban was Hemat Akhundzada, who served until last September.

No information was available on Agha.

A year after the Taliban took control of the country as the Western-backed government and military crumbled, the UN said it was increasingly concerned that restrictions on the Taliban to girls’ education, as well as other measures restricting fundamental freedoms, would aggravate the economic crisis in Afghanistan and lead to greater insecurity, poverty and isolation.

“This is a tragic, shameful and entirely avoidable anniversary,” said Markus Potzel, acting head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say they are working on a plan to open secondary schools for girls but have not given a timetable. Yet hardliners appear to dominate the Taliban-led government and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, showing only their eyes.

While still minister of education, Munir reportedly said during a recent trip to the southern province of Uruzgan that people in rural areas did not want to send their daughters to school, calling it a “problem cultural”.

The Taliban also announced that Mullah Mohammad Mohsin Hashimi, until now the Taliban’s deputy interior minister, would become the governor of the northern province of Panjshir, where an anti-Taliban opposition force is still active.

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