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Insurgents Force School Closures In Afghan Leader’s Village

Afghan school girls hold umbrellas to shelter from rain on outskirt of Kabul on May 15.
Afghan school girls hold umbrellas to shelter from rain on outskirt of Kabul on May 15.

KABUL, Taliban control over the ancestral village of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has forced schools to close in the rural community.

Authorities in the southeastern Afghan province of Logar say insurgents have forced three schools in Ghani’s ancestral village in one of the region’s rural districts, Mohammad Agha.

Muhammad Amin heads the education office in Muhammad Agha. He said the insurgents have forced the two schools in Surkhab village to close over the past two weeks.

“We are running into mounting problems in Surkhab, which is the president’s ancestral village,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on May 23. “The Taliban are mostly in control in the region, and yesterday they closed a girls’ school after closing another middle school for girls earlier this month.”

Amin said the Taliban are not allowing students to get an education beyond the sixth grade. Earlier in the year, the insurgents forced the only high school in Surkhab to close.

Surkhab has one primary school, two middle schools, and one high school. The insurgents are only allowing the primary school to remain open.

The village is nearly 50 kilometers south of the Afghan presidential palace, Arg, in downtown Kabul, where Ghani heads an often shaky national unity government. The region’s fate is similar to large swathes of the Afghan countryside where the insurgents’ control has grown substantially since the 2014 departure of most NATO troops.

Students of a girl school in Afghanistan's Logar province
Students of a girl school in Afghanistan's Logar province

Raz Mohammad Ahmadzai, a resident of Surkhab, says the insurgents’ control over his village is strengthening with the authorities apparently unable to reverse course.

Mohammad Agha’s district governor, Naseer Amin, however, says recent clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters have prompted the school closures.

“Yesterday the Taliban shot at security forces’ check posts, which forced us to close the schools to prevent students and school buildings from harm,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on May 23. “We would like to always keep the school doors open for students.”

Shapur Arab, a spokesman for Logar’s education department, confirmed that the Taliban have banned all education for girls beyond the sixth grade. Afghan primary schools go up to the sixth grade.

Abdul Wali Wakeel, a member of Logar’s provincial council, called on the warring sides to spare schools and work toward reopening all schools in the province.

The Taliban have not commented on the school closures in Logar. But in 2011 the hard-line movement’s founding leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, issued a decree forbidding his followers from attacking schools or intimidating schoolchildren.

Late last year, education authorities in Afghanistan estimated that worsening insecurity, primarily caused by Taliban seizure of the countryside, had forced some 1,000 schools to close.

The insurgents are now estimated to control large swathes of the countryside in Afghanistan’s 652,000-square-kilometer territory, where one-third of the country’s estimated 30 million people live.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this based on Rahmatullah Afghan’s reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.