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Back to school? Not for girls in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

Afghanistan girls
Girls attend class at a secret school on August 14, 2022 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Secondary education for girls has been banned since shortly after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan one year ago, spurring the creation of secret, unofficial schools for older girls. |

Exactly one year after the U.S. and its allies pulled out of Afghanistan, millions of girls across the war-torn country are wondering if they’ll ever get the chance to go back to school.

As an officer of the Middle East media ministry SAT-7, I’ve been to this part of the world many times and have grown to love the people and see in them a strong desire to seek knowledge and learn.

August 15 marks a year since the Taliban regime took over Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul — home to nearly 4.5 million people, roughly the size of Los Angeles.

Gates slammed shut

At that time, amid great international concern, Taliban leaders pledged they’d respect the rights of women and girls. But, 12 months later, millions of girls in sixth grade and above are still waiting to go back to school.

When the new Afghan school year began in March, girls in the upper grades — junior high and up — found the gates shut and armed Taliban guards blocking their way.

According to the U.S. Institute of Peace, one heartbroken girl said: “I walked to school as fast as I could, only to be turned away at gunpoint.”

While the Taliban cite religious principles to justify their education ban on women and older girls, many scholars say gender-based denial of education has no religious grounds.

Right now, millions of eager, intelligent girls — Afghanistan’s next generation — have no hope of a higher education or a better future. Go to school? They might as well dream of going to the moon.

Technology-based ‘hope offensive’

If you’re like me, you feel a righteous anger. How can I do something to counter this crushing injustice and bring hope?

Our answer? We launch a technology-based hope offensive!

Satellite broadcasts, online streaming, and social media — these are the virtually-unstoppable communications trio of our age that can share the love and hope of Christ where none of us can go.

Every month, SAT-7’s media team based in the Middle East, who speak the local languages and understand the real challenges of living in this volatile region, hear from hundreds of people, including girls in Afghanistan, who are losing hope. “Truly the people of Afghanistan are being held in a cage,” one said.

Hope’s name? Jesus

We show them there’s hope beyond the Taliban’s oppression. And hope’s name is Jesus.

SAT-7 has broadcast Christian programs into Afghanistan since 2003 and throughout the entire country since 2017. Even in the remote highlands where farmers grow the nation’s cash crop, poppies, Afghans watch our uplifting programs on satellite television, stream our live shows on their hand-held devices, share their struggles in real-time with our presenters and team members on their phone apps, and ask for prayer via our social media platforms.

“Children in the mountains of Afghanistan are contacting us to say ‘you are our voice, you are all that we have’,” the director of our Farsi-language channel told me.

It’s difficult for the authorities to block our channels. But young viewers in Afghanistan are playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Taliban soldiers routinely confiscate phones to check what they’re watching and texting.

A vision for every girl

Such courage and determination deserves our wholehearted support. We have an ambitious vision to launch educational programs in Farsi and Dari, completely free-of-charge, to the whole of Afghanistan. Every single girl, everywhere in the country, will be able to watch our interactive school programs every day in her own language, and learn. And, in doing so, she will see God’s love made visible.

Is it a vision worth getting behind? I believe millions of girls in Afghanistan would say ‘YES!’

Afghanistan’s education-starved girls are watching for our next move. Will you help reach them?

Dr. Rex Rogers is president of SAT-7 USA (www.sat7usa.org), the U.S. arm of the SAT-7 media ministry that broadcasts Christian and educational programs across the Middle East and North Africa in local languages.

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