The Taliban is planning to purge Afghanistan’s education system of all elements that are “against Islam”, according to an official, as activists and campaigners warn of a return to authoritarian rule in the country.
Speaking on Sunday, interim higher education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani criticised the current education system that was founded by the international community, claiming that it had failed to adhere to religious principles.
“[The] world tried to take religion out of scientific education, which harmed the people,” Mr Haqqani said.
He added that “every item against Islam in the educational system will be removed”.
Mr Haqqani’s comments came as reports of the killing of an Afghan folk singer in a mountain province raised fresh concerns about the threat to human rights in the country as the Taliban works to form a new government.
The family of Fawad Andarabi said he was shot dead by a Taliban fighter in the Andarabi Valley (after which he was named), an area of Baghlan province some 100km (60 miles) north of Kabul.
“He was innocent, a singer who only was entertaining people,” his son said. “They shot him in the head on the farm.”
Mr Andarabi played a bowed lute, known as a ghichak, and sang traditional songs about his birthplace, his people and Afghanistan as a whole.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told reporters that the insurgent group would investigate the incident, but he could not provide any details on it.
In response to the killing, Amnesty International secretary-general Agnes Callamard said: “There is mounting evidence that the Taliban of 2021 is the same as the intolerant, violent, repressive Taliban of 2001.
“20 years later, nothing has changed on that front.”
Although the Taliban has claimed that it will lead a more moderate government in Afghanistan, many fear that women and religious minorities will once again face severe restrictions and oppression under the group’s rule.
On Sunday, former officials and lecturers at Afghan universities called on the insurgent group to maintain and upgrade the country’s education system instead of dismantling it.
Former minister of higher education Abas Basir told a conference on higher education, held by the Taliban, that starting over would be repeating a mistake made by previous governments.
“Let’s not reject everything, starting a new system: we should work more on what we already have,” Mr Basir said.
Mr Mujahid has said that a full cabinet for the new Taliban government will be announced in the coming days, with governors and police chiefs already appointed in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces.
The insurgent group is appealing to the US and other western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after the withdrawal of foreign troops is complete.
However, the UK has warned that relations will only be maintained if the new government respects human rights and allows safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan.
Additional reporting by agencies