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March-04-09

Girls Return to School in Pakistan's Swat Valley

A deal has been struck between the provincial government and local officials and militants in a northern part of Pakistan known as the Swat Valley that will allow girls to return to school there.

In December, regional Taliban leader Mullah Shah Doran announced an education ban on women and girls in the Swat Valley. The directive set a deadline of January 15 for all girls, both in single-sex and co-educational schools, to be withdrawn. The Taliban threatened to bomb schools that ignored the directive and to severely punish violators. At the time, teacher Mohamed Osman told the Times of India that "we have no choice but to follow the orders. The government cannot give us protection. Taliban runs a parallel government in 90 percent of the area of the district and they execute everyone who opposes them."

In recent months, thousands have fled the Swat Valley, formerly a tourist destination. Shahnaz Kahn, a mother who fled the region, told Irin that "All the best teachers from my children's schools have left. I do not think they will go back…According to my relatives there, many children have gone back to schools but there are now too few teachers"

Enrollment of women and girls in schools and colleges in the Swat Valley region before the ban was only a quarter of what it was only three years ago, before the Taliban gained strength there, according to the The Australian. In the past year, more than 180 schools, many of which were all girl institutions, have been destroyed in the area. During the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which lasted until 2001, Afghan girls were forbidden to attend school.

Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 1/5/09, 2/19/09; The Australian 2/20/09; Times of India 1/4/09l; Irin 1/1/09, 3/4/09

   

     

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