Malala Yousufzai condemns Pakistani UN ambassador
Photo: United Nations

Malala Yousafzai: Taliban Misuse Religion to Enforce Gender Apartheid 

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN –  Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai says that the Taliban are misusing religion and “exploiting a twisted interpretation of Islam” to enforce its “gender apartheid” regime in Afghanistan.

In a recent interview, the Pakistani activist emphasized that contrary to Taliban policies and practices, education for all is, in fact, compulsory in Islam.

“Islam says that you cannot stay ignorant, that you have to go and seek knowledge — no matter how hard it is, or how far you have to travel,” she said.

Yousafzai, whose fight against the Taliban’s ideology predates the group’s return to power, underscored that while Afghanistan is not the only Muslim country in the world, it stands alone as the only country preventing women and girls from accessing education and employment opportunities.

Following the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban seized power and subsequently reinstated one of the most rigid gender discrimination policies in the world.

The regime has prohibited women and girls from accessing secondary education, participating in most workplaces, engaging in numerous recreational activities, and traveling unaccompanied over longer distances.

Over the past years, several human rights groups and women’s rights activists have protested the Taliban’s misogynistic policies, urging the UN and international community to take action against the Taliban’s repressive policies.

The Taliban claim that their policies towards women and girls align with Islamic law and Afghan customs. They assert that their authorities are working on plans to open girls’ high schools, but after over two and a half years, they have not provided a timeframe.

It’s not the first time that Malala has criticized the Taliban for their abusive policies towards women. Last December, during the 21st annual Mandela Lectures in South Africa, the Nobel laureate called for the recognition of the Taliban’s oppressive policies as “gender apartheid.”

“Our first imperative is to call the regime in Afghanistan what it really is. It is gender apartheid,” she said, emphasizing the need to recognize gender apartheid as a crime against humanity.

As reported by the Pakistani media, she urged the international community to pay attention to what’s happening to girls and women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

“We need all governments to take a stand and recognize what’s happening in Afghanistan, and Afghan girls and women deserve to know that world leaders have their backs. My hope is that ultimately, this helps to build international pressure on the Taliban and gets Afghan girls back into school where they can learn and fulfill their potential.”

The young Pakistani activist rose to global prominence a decade ago after the Pakistani Taliban, TTP, shot her in the head for her advocacy for girls’ education in Pakistan’s tribal areas. She was hardly a teenager.