Former Afghan president Karzai tweets his support of protesting female students

Former president Ahmad Karzai also called on the ruling Taliban to re-open girls' high schools. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL - Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the ruling Taliban on Sunday to re-open girls' high schools and applauded female students in the eastern province of Paktia who residents said have been publicly protesting against the measure.

"The voice of Paktia's female students is the voice of all our girls and of Afghanistan," said Karzai, who remained in Kabul after the Taliban took over just over a year ago, on Twitter.

"We ask the acting Islamic government to open the schools,"he said.

The ruling Taliban made a sudden U-turn on promises to open girls' high schools in March, leaving some female students who had turned up to class in tears.

Authorities in Paktia said this week that girls' high schools had re-opened, though the move had not been officially approved.

On Saturday, the head of Paktia's information department told journalists any suggestion schools were closed was "propaganda".

But three residents and three Taliban officials, who all declined to be named, told Reuters that schools were shut on Saturday. The residents, one of whom is a teacher, asked to remain anonymous for security reasons and said the closure had prompted some girls to protest.

Video footage shown by local broadcaster Tolo on its website and Twitter account showed dozens of girls in school uniform marching down a street while chanting. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

Taliban education officials in Paktia and Kabul did not reply to a request for comment. The group's spokesperson declined to comment.

The Taliban sources, who asked for anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter, said many in the group wanted girls to be able to go to high school.

The Taliban have said that they are working on a plan to re-open high schools for girls, but have not specified when.

Primary-school aged girls and female university students are still able to attend class. REUTERS

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