By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS
Matiullah Wesa’s crime was to try to ensure young people got an education in Afghanistan. His recent forceful abduction by the Taliban offers the latest stark reminder that global solidarity and coherent action from the international community are needed to prevent the complete loss of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
Matiullah has been at the forefront of advocating for access to education as a co-founder and leader of Pen Path. For more than a decade, Pen Path has worked with community and tribal leaders in remote areas in Afghanistan to advocate for education and bring learning closer to communities. It works to enlighten communities about the importance of education, particularly girl’s and women’s education, organises book donations, runs mobile libraries in remote areas and reopens schools closed by years of conflict and insecurity. Pen Path has reopened over 100 schools, distributed more than 1.5 million items of stationery and provided education facilities for 110,000 children – 66,000 of them girls. This is what Matiullah is being punished for.
The abduction of Matiullah and many others advocating for the rights of education point to a concerted effort by the Taliban to try to restrict women’s and girls’ access to education and silence those advocating for education and an inclusive society.
There are sadly many other instances. In November 2022 around 60 Taliban members stormed a press conference organised to announce the formation of Afghan Women Movement for Equality. They arrested conference participants and deleted all images from their phones.
Read on Inter Press Service