Dozens of protesters, mostly women, gathered close to Taliban’s Ministry of Education on Saturday demanding reopening of girl’s secondary schools.
The Taliban has been condemned for ordering them to close, just hours after teenage pupils began to arrive for the start of the new academic year.
The protesters chanted, “Education is our right! Open the doors of girls’ schools!” while armed Taliban gunmen looked on.
The Taliban has previously broken up demonstrations and detained those involved, but on this occasion the protest was allowed to continue.
Since the group took power last August, girls’ primary schools in most of the country, along with all boys’ schools, have remained open, but older girls have not been allowed back in the classroom.
The Taliban’s Ministry of Education had said girls’ secondary schools would restart on Wednesday, but the decision was overruled by the group’s central leadership, who said they could remain closed until a “comprehensive” and “Islamic” plan for them had been drawn up.
The move provoked an outpour of grief on social media. A presenter on the popular Tolo TV channel struggled to hold back his tears during a discussion on the issue.
On Friday, a joint statement by officials from 10 countries, including the US and UK, described the Taliban’s decision as “profoundly disturbing”.
The chaotic policy reversal by the Taliban probably reflects divisions within the group between more hardline and moderate elements.
In some provinces, particularly in northern Afghanistan, local Taliban officials have allowed teenage girls to continue to study, but others appear to oppose the idea.