Afghan ex-president Karzai reveals his own daughter faces Taliban school ban

Former leader condemns ban on girls' education a year after militants seized Kabul

Hamid Karzai was president of Afghanistan from 2002 to 2014. EPA
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Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai has said his own daughter is on the brink of being shut out of school because of Taliban curbs on educating girls.

Mr Karzai told German broadcaster DW that his daughter Malala, 10, was about to finish sixth grade in Kabul and would be barred from going any further as things stand.

The Taliban, who seized power a year ago on Monday, defied international pressure and closed secondary schools to girls last September, and a plan to reopen them in March was abruptly abandoned.

Marking the anniversary, Sima Bahous, executive director for UN Women, said Afghan females had suffered a “daily and continuous deterioration” in their position since the Taliban took power and reintroduced harsh restrictions.

Asked whether he would send his daughter to school abroad, Mr Karzai, the president from 2002 to 2014, said he had not given up on restoring education rights in Afghanistan.

“That is exactly the question before me and before hundreds of thousands of other Afghan families and parents,” he said. “What do we do when our daughters reach the age to go to middle school or secondary school?

“Leaving the country means abandoning the country. So, we have to do all we can to fight for the right of our children or of our daughters to educate. We wouldn't give up on that.”

Mr Karzai called on his compatriots to “get together as Afghans, all of us, the Taliban and the rest of the country” to restore the right to education for older girls.

“If Afghanistan is a country lost for women, that will also mean Afghanistan lost itself,” he said. "We shall never allow that.

In her statement, Ms Bahous described Afghanistan as the only country in the world where girls are banned from secondary school and said the Taliban were pursuing "meticulously constructed policies of inequality".

A "deliberate slew of measures of discrimination against Afghanistan’s women and girls is ... a terrible act of self-sabotage for a country experiencing huge challenges", she said. "The exclusion of women from all aspects of life robs the people of Afghanistan of half their talent and energies."

Mr Karzai said he himself had stayed in Afghanistan when others fled because “you don’t leave your home when things become difficult”, but denied the suggestion that he was a prisoner of the Taliban.

He said the Taliban have provided a security escort when he moves around Kabul, although he said he had not yet put the extent of their co-operation to the test by attempting to leave the capital.

Ashraf Ghani, the president who succeeded Mr Karzai, fled Afghanistan when his western-backed government was toppled by the Taliban.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 1:13 PM