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Malala calls on Taliban to release education activists like Matiullah

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, has urged the Taliban to release Matiullah Wesa, an Afghan education activist detained in Kabul. Wesa had been providing mobile schools and libraries to Afghan girls and boys, according to a Nobel laureate, who described his arrest as an attack on education.

Malala condemned the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education and the arrest of education activists like Wesa in a tweet on Tuesday. She urged the Taliban to release him and all others imprisoned for educating children.

Wesa’s brother claims that the 30-year-old education activist has been receiving threats for some time because of his work for girls’ education through his organization, PenPath. His home was also allegedly raided during his arrest, though the government has not provided any details.

Wesa was one of Afghanistan’s most prominent education activists, fighting for girls’ right to education since the Taliban banned female education in 2021. On the day of his arrest, he tweeted a photo of female PenPath volunteers demanding Islamic rights to education for their daughters.

After finishing his prayers at a mosque, Wesa was reportedly stopped by a group of men in two vehicles. According to his brother, when he asked for their identification cards, they beat him and took him away.

Malala’s call for the release of Wesa and other imprisoned education advocates highlights Afghanistan’s ongoing struggle for education women’s rights, especially in the face of Taliban rule.

Afghanistan’s environment for women and girls remains difficult, with many still facing discrimination, violence, and limited access to modern education and employment opportunities.

According to AFP, Matiullah’s organization, which campaigns for schools and distributes books in rural areas, has long been dedicated to communicating the importance of girls’ education to village elders.

Wesa has continued to visit remote areas to rally local support since the ban on secondary schools for girls.

“We are counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until the opening of girls’ schools.” “The damage that school closures cause is irreversible and undeniable,” he tweeted last week, just as the new school year began in Afghanistan.

“We met with residents and will continue our protest if the schools remain closed.”

After the withdrawal of US and NATO forces that had supported previous governments, the Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021.

Taliban leaders, who have also barred women from attending university, have repeatedly stated that once certain conditions are met, they will reopen schools for girls.

They claim they lack the funds and time to redesign the curriculum along Islamic lines.

Taliban officials made similar promises during their first five years in power, from 1996 to 2001, but no girls’ schools opened at that time.

The ban on girls’ education is thought to have been issued by Afghanistan’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and his ultra-conservative aides, who are deeply skeptical of modern education, particularly for women.

It has sparked international outrage as well as an internal opposition, with some senior officials in the Kabul government as well as many rank-and-file members opposing the decision.

It has sparked international outrage as well as an internal opposition, with some senior officials in the Kabul government as well as many rank-and-file members opposing the decision.

In deeply conservative and patriarchal Afghanistan, attitudes toward girls’ education are slowly changing in rural areas where the benefits are recognized.

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