Universal Periodic Review of Afghanistan

The following report has been drafted by Broken Chalk as a stakeholder contribution to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review [UPR] for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. As Broken Chalk’s primary focus is to combat human rights violations within the educational sphere, the contents of this report and the following recommendations will focus on the Right to Education.

  • Four decades of sustained conflict have heavily affected Afghanistan’s educational landscape. Recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation for Afghan children and have taken a toll on the fragile education system.[i]
  • The current Taliban policies governing education are enshrined in documents distributed to education officials across different levels within the movement.[ii] The Taliban education philosophy follows a unique mixture of Pashtun culture and Islamic law, highly prioritising religious education. However, the Taliban’s High Commission for Education also emphasises the need for “modern” education alongside religious teachings.[iii]
  • Although the overarching education policy acknowledges the need for secular subjects to be taught alongside religious ones in schools, these statements are directly followed by religiously motivated restrictions that imply that a series of topics included in the state curriculum should be eliminated and not taught (particularly about subjects such as history and biology).[iv]
  • The current practices and decisions on education established by the Taliban regime contradict national and international laws. Afghanistan’s Constitution (Articles 43-44), adopted in 2004, guaranteed equal access to education for boys and girls. The Education Law 2008 once again addressed equal rights for all children, free and compulsory education until ninth grade, and free education until attaining a Bachelor’s degree. At the international level, Afghanistan has ratified the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, Article 26 recognising the Right to Education) and other human rights treaties that reaffirm the Right to Education (i.e. CESCR Articles 13-14; CRC Articles 28-29; CEDAW Article 10).[v]
  • Gender inequality, poverty, and questionable legislation, combined with factors such as traditional gender norms and practices, a shortage of schools, insufficient transportation, and geographical barriers, have led to an estimated 3.7 million Afghan children being out of school, 60% being girls.[vi]

By Aurelia Bejenari

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[i] UNESCO. “Protecting Education in Afghanistan.” Unesco.org. February 2, 2023. https://www.unesco.org/en/emergencies/education/afghanistan.

[ii] Amiri, Rahmatullah, and Ashley Jackson. “Taliban Attitudes and Policies towards Education.” ODI Centre for the Study of Armed Groups: (February 2021): 13.  https://cdn.odi.org/media/documents/taliban_attitudes_towards_education.pdf

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Amiri and Jackson, “Taliban Attitudes and Policies towards Education”, 19.

[v] Rezai, Hussain. “The Taliban Rule and the Radicalisation of Education in Afghanistan.” GlobalCampus of Human Rights – GCHR. November 24, 2022. https://gchumanrights.org/preparedness-children/article-detail/the-taliban-rule-and-the-radicalisation-of-education-in-afghanistan-4945.html.

[vi] UNICEF. “Afghanistan. Education.” Unicef.org. 2016. https://www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education.

Cover image by Chairman of the Chief of Staff on Flickr.

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