Taliban arrested girls' education activist in Afghanistan

The Taliban have arrested a famous Afghan advocate for female education, despite the fact that young girls and women are still prohibited from attending school. Matiullah Wesa, 30 years old, had frequently been the target of threats; he had spent years traversing Afghanistan in an effort to expand access to education for all students. 

The Taliban did not provide a reason for Mr. Wesa's detention. His residence was also searched. His arrest followed the incarceration of a number of other campaigners advocating for the education of women.

Prof. Ismail Mashal, an outspoken critic of the Taliban government's prohibition on women's education, was arrested in Kabul in February while distributing free books. He was released on March 5, but has not spoken since. Mr. Wesa is one of the most renowned education activists in Afghanistan, and with his nonprofit PenPath, he has been advocating for girls' education rights since 2021, when the Taliban banned female education. 

On the day of his arrest, Monday, his final tweet was a photo of PenPath volunteers "demanding the Islamic right to education for their daughters." The Afghanistan mission of the United Nations has also brought Mr. Wesa's plight to light and urged the Taliban to clarify his whereabouts and the grounds for his incarceration. 

On Monday, Mr. Wesa was arrested after exiting a mosque in the capital city of Kabul.

"The Taliban arrived in two vehicles," a family member told the sources. They also mentioned that Mr. Wesa was handcuffed and placed in the vehicle. At 10am, the Taliban conducted a raid on his home. They flipped it on its head, warned his family not to speak out, and confiscated phones, documents, and computers. The brothers of Matiullah were arrested momentarily and then released with a warning." For the past decade, Mr. Wesa has visited hundreds of regions in Afghanistan to encourage education. 

The network he developed, PenPath, includes over 2,400 volunteers nationwide. They aid in the establishment of local classrooms, the recruitment of instructors, and the distribution of books and stationery. Mr. Wesa has not been deterred by the ban on girls attending high school. Last Monday, he tweeted, "The damage caused by school closures is irrevocable and undeniable." 

Following the withdrawal of US-led forces, women’s rights have been progressively eroded since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. In September 2021, when secondary schools resumed, only boys and male teachers were admitted inside. 

Following the March 2022 announcement that females will be permitted to attend secondary schools, a brief period of optimism ensued. Following what appeared to be an abrupt U-turn by the Taliban leadership, however, sobbing schoolgirls were turned away.

Girls will be permitted to return to school once "a comprehensive strategy based on Sharia and Afghan culture" has been developed. In December 2022, however, universities were likewise closed to female students. Schools and universities are temporarily closed to women and girls, according to the Taliban, until a "suitable environment" is formed. 

Nevertheless, women are severely limited in other areas as well. The Taliban have mandated that women traveling more than 72 kilometers must wear attire that conceals everything except their eyes and be accompanied by a male relative (48 miles). Despite international condemnation and protests by campaigners and ordinary women the restrictions have remained