KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A memorandum from the Afghan Ministry of Education banning 12-year-old girls from singing at school has caused a stir on social media, prompting authorities to say it was wrong, its authors misunderstood objectively.
Still, #IAmMySong is causing a lot of interest on Twitter. Some Afghan girls sing their favorite tunes for the camera, calling for petitions to oppose the order.
The controversy comes as women’s rights activists and civil society groups struggle to ensure that the fragile human rights gains in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, when the US invaded after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, occupy a central part of peace talks. : insurgents. It also shows how the rights of girls and women threatened by conservatives on both sides of the conflict have been protracted.
“This is Talibanization from within the country,” said Sima Samar, a 40-year-old Afghan human rights activist. When they ruled the country, the Taliban, known for their repression, denied girls the right to education. Music, except for spiritual songs, was banned, as was television.
The memorandum, which goes to all school districts in Kabul, has been canceled, said ministry spokesman Najiba Aria, claiming that its authors had misunderstood the purpose. A new memorandum was sent after that, saying that bands were forbidden for “high school girls and boys”.
The goal was not to ban girls from singing, but to prevent boys and girls from participating in public events that could spread the coronavirus. More than 55,000 cases of the virus have been reported in Afghanistan և 2,451 deaths, but the test is insufficient և the actual numbers are expected to be much higher.
The hashtag campaign was started by Ahmad Sarmast, the founder of the Afghanistan Music Institute. It received more than 600,000 clicks, according to Harun Baluch, a Pakistan-based human rights group that monitors Internet traffic from BytesforAll. He said that the trend is being built.
Sarmast said he launched #IAmMySong to “inform the authorities that the people of Afghanistan are against this decision, that they will protect the rights of children, whether boys or girls.”
The memo, copied by The Associated Press, does not mention any epidemics or health concerns. Instead, he makes it clear that girls over the age of 12 may not perform at any public event, that singing at such events is strictly forbidden. Then it is said that only female teachers can teach music to girls over 12.
“The Kabul City Education Department, public and private literacy centers are strongly advised not to allow female students. “Participate in any type of event or general program from the age of 12,” it says, except for all women’s gatherings.
Samar, who founded Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission in 2002 and served as its head until 2019, said the directive violated basic human rights. It violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Afghanistan is a signatory to, he added.
The memorandum violates both national and international law, Sarmast said. According to one tweet, 100,000 signatures were collected in several provinces of Afghanistan to protest the order.
After the fiasco of the first memorandum, the second one came out. “It banned both boys and girls over the age of 12 from singing or performing in public, which is an even more shocking instruction, as it deprives all high school students of the ‘right to choose’ and the freedom of speech,” Sarmast said.
The Ministry of Education has recently had to overcome other wrong steps. In December, it came under attack after it suggested that children in grades one through three be taught in mosques. After the Fur fire broke out, the ministry had to correct itself, saying that it was in rural areas where there were no school buildings, so mosques were the only option for some of the country’s poorest.
Mosque-related schools are known as madrassas, often attended by the country’s poorest. In January, it was said that the Interior Ministry was going to register thousands of madrassas operating in the country.
Focusing mainly on religious education rather than language, liberal arts, and science, madrassas are run by hardline clergy. They have been accused of spreading jihad, or holy war, and spreading intolerance among two major Islamic sects, Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Associated Press writers Tamim Akhgar և Ahmad Seyer in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.