KABUL: At least one participant at a gathering organised by the Taliban of 3,000 male religious and ethnic leaders from across Afghanistan called on Thursday for high schools for girls to reopen.

Two gunmen were shot dead near the site of the gathering. Taliban officials said the two started firing from a rooftop near where the meeting was taking place, but were “quickly eliminated by Mujahideen with the help of Allah the Almighty”.

It was the first such gathering to take place since the Taliban took over the country in August.

The Taliban had in March backtracked on their announcement that high schools would open for girls, saying they would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law for them to reopen. The U-turn left students in tears and drew condemnation from humanitarian agencies, rights groups and diplomats.

“They will learn and will be a good guide for their children in society,” said Sayed Nassrullah Waizi, from central Bamiyan province, in calling for the schools to open.

It was not clear how much support this sentiment would receive or how a decision on the issue might be reached.

The gathering appeared similar to a “loya jirga”, a traditional form of decision making in Afghanistan that some leaders, including former republic President Ashraf Ghani, have used.

Civil society groups have criticised the lack of female participation. The Taliban acting deputy prime minister said women’s involvement was taking place as their male family members would attend.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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