Taliban government ministers thought the matter of girls’ education was settled. Schools for girls over sixth grade were set to reopen this past March, after months.
Then the Taliban’s religious council, dominated by ultraconservative clerics, scuttled the plan. Hours before school gates were supposed to reopen, it was announced that they would remain closed. Teenage girls who showed up to school in their uniforms were turned away.
The reversal drew widespread condemnation in Afghanistan—including from many Taliban members who took to social media to criticize it.
The outburst shook a movement that has stayed remarkably cohesive while fighting a two-decade insurgency against U.S.-led international forces and their Afghan allies. Now that the Taliban are in government, cracks are appearing on multiple fronts less than a year after it toppled the Western-backed Afghan Republic.
Taliban leaders are at odds over ideology: how to interpret Islamic law and how strictly to enforce it, including in schools. Rival factions are also feuding over power and the limited spoils of their victory.
Meanwhile, the country’s economic woes have angered some Taliban fighters, many of whom are struggling to feed their families, raising the possibility many will quit or defect to rival armed groups.
“A lot of mujahedeen have left the Taliban. It should be an alarm for them,” said Sherzad, a 28-year-old former commander of the Haqqani network, a branch of the Taliban, who said he quit because the leadership hasn’t done enough to fix the country’s economy and provide for its members. “If they don’t listen to us, many low-level Taliban will fight against them.”
Compounding the humanitarian hardship is a massive earthquake last week that killed up to 1,000 people and devastated communities in the rural eastern part of the country. [Continue reading…]