ISLAMABAD (AP) - The Taliban appointed a new education minister for Afghanistan, days after the United Nations called on the country's new rulers to reopen schools for girls beyond sixth grade.
Since seizing power in Afghanistan just over a year ago, the Taliban have restricted the rights of girls to education, despite initial promises to the contrary. The United Nations estimates that more than a million girls have been barred from attending most of middle school and high school over the past year.
The appointment, which came late on Tuesday and was announced by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujaihid, named Habibullah Agha, the current head of Kandahar Provincial Council, as the new education minister, replacing Noorullah Munir. The first Taliban-appointed education minister was Hemat Akhundzada, who was in the post until last September.
No information was available on Agha.
A year since the Taliban took over the country as the Western-backed government and military crumbled, the U.N. has said it was increasingly concerned that Taliban restrictions on girls' education, as well as other measures curtailing basic freedoms, would deepen Afghanistan's economic crisis and lead to greater insecurity, poverty, and isolation.
"This is a tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable anniversary," said Markus Potzel, acting head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.
The Taliban say they are working on a plan to open secondary schools for girls but have not given a timeframe. Still, hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-run government and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, with only their eyes showing.
While still education minister, Munir was quoted as saying on a recent trip to southern Uruzgan province that people in rural areas do not want to send their daughters to school, describing it as a "cultural issue."
The Taliban also announced that Mullah Mohammad Mohsin Hashimi, until now the Taliban's deputy interior minister, would become the governor for northern Panjshir province, where an anti-Taliban opposition force is still active.