Activist Malala Yousafzai — who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls’ education — on Tuesday said she “fears” for the future of Afghan women after the Taliban takeover of the country.
In a New York Times essay, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history recalled how the Taliban banned girls from getting an education after invading her hometown in Pakistan in 2007 — and then tried to assassinate her for speaking out about her right to school when she was 15.
“Afghan girls and young women are once again where I have been — in despair over the thought that they might never be allowed to see a classroom or hold a book again,” Yousafzai wrote.
Some in the militant group have promised not to bar women from schools or work and to allow them into government — but Yousafzai, now 24, noted there have already been chilling reports about Afghan women having their rights stripped away.
The University of Oxford graduate, who lives in London, said that what she’s heard from education advocates in Afghanistan over the last two weeks is worrisome.
“One woman who runs schools for rural children told me she has lost contact with her teachers and students,” Yousafzai wrote.
The activists fear that the Taliban will impose the previous regime’s religion-only education — and called on other countries to demand that the group allow women to study and join the workforce.
“It is not enough to vaguely say, ‘Girls can go to school,’” Yousafzai said one activist told her. “We need specific agreements that girls can complete their education, can study science and math, can go to university and be allowed to join the workforce and do jobs they choose.”
She also pleaded with regional powers to actively help “in the protection of women and children” and for neighboring countries, like China, Iran and Pakistan, to open their doors to refugees.
“It is not too late to help the Afghan people — particularly women and children,” Yousafzai wrote.
She added: “We will have time to debate what went wrong in the war in Afghanistan, but in this critical moment we must listen to the voices of Afghan women and girls.”
“They are asking for protection, for education, for the freedom and the future they were promised,” Yousafzai said. “We cannot continue to fail them. We have no time to spare.”