A ban on girls singing in public imposed by Afghan education officials last week has been overturned after a social media campaign that included local women uploading videos of themselves belting out their favourite songs.
Schoolgirl choirs are a regular feature of official Afghan events, but when education authorities in the capital Kabul banned the participation of girls over the age of 12, it prompted an immediate backlash.
The order raised fears that education officials were “Talibanising” the country, heralding a return to when the Taliban armed group barred the participation of women in almost all parts of society outside their own homes.
The education ministry issued a statement late on Sunday saying the ban “does not reflect the positions or policies of the ministry”.
The announcement followed a furious backlash from social media users using the hashtag #IAmMySong to raise awareness.
“In Afghanistan today the Ministry of Education suffocated the voices of our little girls by making it illegal for them to sing,” tweeted Shamila Kohestani, former captain of the national women’s football team.
“They are quite literally teaching girls that they have no voice. #IAmMySong.”
On Facebook, Tayeb Safa wrote: “I feel the Taliban are making a comeback”.
The controversy comes amid fears of a possible Taliban return to power as the US mulls pulling its remaining troops from the country in the coming weeks in accordance with a landmark deal signed with the armed group last year.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have largely stalled in recent months, while a targeted assassination campaign – including the murders of high-profile Afghan women – has further rattled the country.
Afghanistan continues to be one of the most oppressive countries for women.
Gains in urban areas, however, have raised hopes that opportunities for women were slowly gaining traction.