The founder of a network of schools open to girls in Afghanistan was arrested in Kabul, the UN announced on Tuesday, asking the Taliban authorities to clarify the reasons for this arrest, in a country where the education of girls is an extremely sensitive subject.
Matiullah Wesa, head of the Pen Path organization and "advocate for girls' education, was arrested Monday in Kabul", tweeted the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Manua).
She asks the authorities to "clarify his whereabouts, the reasons for his arrest and to 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, who returned to power in August 2021, who also denied women access to university.
Among the reasons given, the government considered 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.
Contacted by AFP on this arrest, the authorities did not respond on Tuesday.
Matiullah Wesa's brother confirmed his arrest, "by men in two vehicles" Monday evening at the exit of a mosque after prayers.
"When Matiullah asked them for their identity cards, they beat him and took him by force," Samiullah Wesa told AFP.
Samiullah and another of his brothers were also arrested on Tuesday, a fourth brother, Attaullah Wesa, announced in a video posted on Twitter.
They were “grabbed, handcuffed and taken away,” Attaullah Wesa said, adding authorities were also looking for him.
Matiullah Wesa, 30, is the founder and president of the Pen Path organization. For Samiullah, he was arrested for his work in the education sector. "He never worked with anyone else, not even with the previous government," he insisted.
Despite the banning of secondary schools for girls, he continued to travel to remote areas to make people understand the importance of girls' education.
"We are counting the hours, minutes and seconds until schools for girls open. The damage caused by school closures is irreversible and undeniable," he tweeted last week, as the he school year was starting in Afghanistan.
His organization established 18 libraries and launched a book distribution campaign in rural areas.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said he was alarmed by his arrest. “His safety is paramount and all of his rights must be respected,” he tweeted.
France has called for "the immediate release" of Matiullah Wesa. "No society can develop positively by denying women's rights," the foreign ministry said.
In early February, an Afghan university professor was arrested by the Taliban after condemning the ban on women studying. He was 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, who make Islam an austere interpretation, have multiplied measures against women's rights, gradually excluding them from public life.
Many women have lost their jobs in the public sector and since November they are no longer allowed to go to parks, gymnasiums or public baths.
They are also prohibited from traveling without being accompanied by a male relative and must cover themselves fully when leaving their homes.
28/03/2023 16:16:42 - Kabul (AFP) © 2023 AFP