The founder of a network of schools open to girls in Afghanistan was arrested on Monday March 27 in Kabul, the UN announced on Tuesday. The international organization asks the Taliban authorities to clarify the reasons for his arrest, while the education of girls is an extremely sensitive subject in the country.
Matiullah Wesa, head of the Pen Path organization and “girls’ education advocate, was arrested in Kabul on Monday”, tweeted United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Manua). She asks the authorities to “clarify his whereabouts, the reasons for his arrest and ensure that he has access to legal representation and contact with his family”.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls’ education is prohibited after primary school. Teenage girls were banned from secondary schools by the Taliban authorities, who returned to power in August 2021, who also denied women the right to study at university.
Several reasons have been put forward by the Taliban government, notably considering that women, who should ideally wear the hijab covering the entire body and face, were not dressed enough. He also explained that these establishments would be reopened to them once an Islamic education program had been developed.
Book distribution campaign
Contacted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) about this arrest, the Taliban authorities have so far not responded. Matiullah Wesa’s brother confirmed his arrest, adding that he had been arrested leaving a mosque after prayers on Monday evening. “Matiullah had finished his prayers and was leaving the mosque when he was stopped by men in two vehicles”Samiullah Wesa told AFP. “When Matiullah asked them for their identity cards, they beat him and took him by force”.
For Samiullah, his brother was arrested for his work in the education sector. “He never worked with anyone else, not even with the previous government. He only worked for Pen Path”he insisted.
Aged 30, Matiullah Wesa, an activist for the education of Afghans and Afghans, is the founder and president of the organization Pen Path. Despite the banning of secondary schools for girls, he continued to travel to remote areas to gain support from locals and spread awareness of the importance of girls’ education.
“We are counting the hours, minutes and seconds that separate us from the opening of schools for girls. The damage caused by school closures is irreversible and undeniable.”does he have tweeted last week as the new school year began in Afghanistan. His organization established eighteen libraries and launched a campaign to distribute books with the aim of making people in rural areas literate.
Austere interpretation of Islam
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said he was alarmed by his arrest. “His safety is paramount and all his rights must be respected”he warned on Twitter.
In early February, an Afghan university professor was also arrested by the Taliban after condemning the ban on women in his country from studying. He was finally released after 32 days in captivity. Ismail Mashal, a veteran journalism professor, had caused a storm by tearing up his diplomas on television in December to protest against the decree banning higher education for women.
The order against girls’ education is said to have come from Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and his ultra-conservative aides who are deeply skeptical of modern education, especially for women. Since their return to power, the Taliban authorities with their austere interpretation of Islam have multiplied measures against women’s rights, gradually excluding them from public life.