Ex-Afghan president urges immediate return of girls to school to help economic future

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Afghan girls should return to school immediately, Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai told Al Arabiya, stressing that education was needed to help the war-torn country “move ahead” and reduce its reliance on the rest of the world.

“The most important and pressing issue is the return of Afghan girls to school from grades 6 to 12,” Karzai said.

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“These are the issues and these are the decisions of the Afghan people [that] require of the current government to make so that Afghanistan moves ahead with education, so that Afghanistan is able to stand on its own feet rather than being a country that is in need of the world, rather than being a country from which its people are running away, that has to stop.”

The former president, who ruled the country from 2002 to 2014, said that a power-sharing model of governance was “not necessary” so long as the Taliban interim government earns the approval of the Afghan people.

“…The whole idea [is] to bring about a feeling that Afghanistan belongs to all its people and that the government of Afghanistan is representing all its people, and that it is moving in a direction where the aspirations of the people are being fulfilled.”

Karzai said that one way the Taliban can gain the approval of the country’s people was to ensure the return of girls to school. He added that the government needed to take policies that were in the “direction of progress, self-sufficiency, and economic wellbeing” to ensure a sense of unity among the people.

He continued, “It is in the interest of the Afghan people to have Afghan women get educated. The entire Muslim world is getting girls educated. Islam emphasizes the education for girls, [it] lays immense emphasis on education and learning, and Afghanistan cannot be an exception. The Afghan woman obey hijab fully among the best in the Western world in this regard. Therefore, there is no reason there cannot be an excuse not allowing girls to go to school.”

The ex-president’s comments come after a three-day meeting which ended on Saturday that failed to address some of the country’s most pressing issues, including girls’ education.

Afghan women activists said on Sunday that they still viewed the Taliban as illegitimate rulers despite a declaration by thousands of male Afghan critics endorsing the government, according to an AFP report.

Last week, they insisted that women would be represented at the three-day meeting, but only by their sons and husbands. It was attended by over 3,500 men.

The Taliban seized power last August and have since tried to present their vision of an extremist country governed by their interpretation of the Sharia law. Since returning to power after the US’ failed attempt to repel their influence in the country, the Taliban’s harsh policies have imposed severe restrictions on Afghans – particularly women.

Karazi said Afghan women have been wearing burkas in the country for a “very, very long time,” adding that “Afghan women are fully obeying the hijab in many forms. Some wear burkas, some wear a big scarf for their heads. Others do it in some other forms...”

However, what is needed “is not so much a discussion on this on hijab,” he said.

“This is something that the society is doing anyway. What we are asking about, what the country is asking about is the return of women back to work. As half of the society, that is extremely important,” Karazi told Al Arabiya.

“I must emphasize for the well-being of Afghanistan, any government that wants to see the country do well must understand that that cannot happen without women working shoulder to shoulder with the men of that society for a better future.”

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