Education Cannot Wait stands in solidarity with every girl and woman in Afghanistan. Each one has an inherent human right to education. We also stand in solidarity with every Afghan father, brother, husband and son, suffering the pain of seeing their daughter, sister, wife and mother brutally denied their right to an education.

Yet, in recent days, the Taliban has taken drastic measures to ban girls from attending university, has for over a year banned girls from attending secondary school, and reports indicate possible further bans of girls from elementary school and of female teachers from the classroom.

Any ban on girls’ education is a despicable attack on human rights and on Afghanistan, as a country. Afghanistan has suffered decades of brutal conflict, extreme poverty, starvation and climate-induced disasters. The people of Afghanistan have experienced excruciating hardship for far too long. How much more can the Afghan people take?

In preventing girls and women from going to school and higher education, 50% of the population is excluded from rebuilding Afghanistan, their communities and their families. There will be no female doctors, nurses or teachers to provide basic services to girls and women. There will be no Afghan children whose mothers or sisters can help them learn and develop.

As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait joins UN Secretary-General António Guterres in urging the de facto authorities to ensure equal access to education at all levels for women and girls. Afghanistan needs all of its people in order to rebuild from four decades of conflict.

All over the world, women and girls have a basic human right to an education. By denying them the inherent right to an education, the de facto authorities are causing great harm to the people of Afghanistan – girls, women, men, and boys alike.

Education and knowledge are cornerstones of the teachings of Islam, cornerstones of an enlightened society, and cornerstones of peace, economic prosperity, and progress everywhere. Girls and women who are guaranteed their human rights – especially their right to seek knowledge – are the backbone of a greater society arising out of war and poverty.

Education Cannot Wait will continue to advocate for the rights of all girls to quality education in Afghanistan and beyond. We stand with the global community and will continue to work tirelessly to fulfil the universal, moral obligation to protect girls and women and ensure that their right to an education is fulfilled.

We urge people everywhere to join the world in calling on the de facto authorities to end this despicable and unconscionable ban. It is an open wound bleeding for our collective humanity. It is a painful blow to the inherent rights of millions of women and men already suffering in Afghanistan. It is time to alleviate their suffering – not inflict more of it.

The ban does not represent Afghanistan. It does not represent Islam. It does not represent culture. The ban on education for girls represents brutality and ignorance in its utter form. Most of all, it represents absolute inhumanity and irresponsibility towards the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. Ending the ban immediately will also contribute to ending the anguish and sorrow of the Afghan people.

Yasmine Sherif is Director, Education Cannot Wait.

Inter Press Service.