Afghanistan: turnaround on the ban on girls singing in public

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The Afghan government on Sunday rescinded a school administration directive banning young girls from singing in public in Kabul, after facing an avalanche of criticism on social media.

It is often customary in Afghanistan, at official events, for a choir of schoolgirls to greet visitors with singing.

But on March 6, the Kabul rectorate called on schools in the capital to no longer send girls over the age of 12 to sing in public ceremonies, in front of a mixed audience, on the grounds that they should focus on their studies.

This decision immediately sparked an outcry on social networks, where many Afghans denounced a “Talibanization” of society, in reference to the time when the Taliban in power (1996-2001) imposed their fundamentalist vision of religion by prohibiting women from studying or working.

After a week of controversy, the Ministry of Education ended up dissociating itself from the rectorate. The directive “does not reflect the positions and policy of the ministry,” he said in a statement Sunday evening.

He added that he was determined to “support the right of all schoolgirls to learn and participate in the artistic and cultural activities of their choice”.

Prior to this turnaround, the hashtag #IAmMySong (“I am my song”) had become popular on Twitter, where many young girls had posted videos in which they sang their favorite songs.

“In Afghanistan today, the Ministry of Education has stifled the voices of our little girls by forbidding them to sing”, also reacted on Twitter Shamila Kohestani, a former captain of the national women’s football team.

“They literally teach little girls that they have no voice,” she added.

On Facebook, Tayeb Safe, an Internet user, wrote: “I have the impression that the Taliban are back”.

Many Afghans fear a return to power by the Taliban, as the peace talks in Doha between the insurgents and the Afghan government have stalled, and the United States must theoretically withdraw by May 1 its last troops from the Afghan government. country, a decision that has yet to be endorsed by the Biden administration.

While progress has been made in urban centers, Afghanistan remains one of the most repressive countries for women, despite decades of international aid and the fall of the Taliban regime.