Ban on Afghan schoolgirls singing in public slammed

The education ministry says female students over 12 will not be allowed to sing at ceremonies, except if it’s an all-female event.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said the decision was made after parents complained that students had too much schoolwork [File: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

An Afghan-based rights group has condemned a decision by authorities to ban schoolgirls from singing at public events, saying they should “not promote gender discrimination”.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education said in a letter, leaked to the media on Wednesday, that female students over the age of 12 would no longer be allowed to sing in public ceremonies unless the event in question was all-female. It also said that the female students would not be taught by male music teachers.

“Education, freedom of speech and access to artistic skills are the basic rights of all children, regardless of age or gender. Children, girls and boys can exercise their rights equally and freely within the framework of the law,” Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a statement on Twitter.

Najiba Arian, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, confirmed the ban to local news outlet TOLONews, saying the decision applies to all 34 provinces of the country.

She added that “the decision was made following complaints by families over the high burden of studies on the shoulders of the students in high school and middle school”.

The ministry, however, did not explain why the ban only applied to girls or why all-female events were exempt.

The statement by the AIHRC further said the education ministry should support freedom, equality and protection of children and “not promote gender discrimination”.

Schoolchildren in Afghanistan often sing at ceremonies or official events.

Ahmad Naser Sarmast, founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music also condemned the ban, saying the decision is a “clear violation of national and international legislation and laws in areas of basic human rights, child rights, women’s rights, musical rights, and the universal right to freedom of expression”.

“The Afghanistan National Institute of Music … openly calls upon supporters and members of the Afghan and international community to join us in solidarity so that young females and women of Afghanistan, in music and in voice, may never be silenced again,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

During the Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001, singing and listening to music and writing poems or songs were strictly banned by the armed group.

Since the overthrow of the Taliban in an invasion by US-led forces, Afghan women have gained a number of rights that they are worried will now be eroded as the Afghan government tries to negotiate a peace agreement with the armed group, which has fought the government and foreign forces for 20 years.

Last year, the education ministry faced a backlash for decreeing that students receive all lessons during their first three years of schooling in mosques to help inject an “Islamic spirit” into the students.

The decision was reversed.

Source: Al Jazeera