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Taliban fighters float in swan pedalos as Afghanis protest a ban on girls attending schools

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Armed Taliban fighters were photographed riding in swan pedalos on a lake in a national park in Afghanistan as protests erupt around the country over the ruling regime’s ban on girls attending school.

Online posts containing the pictures say they were taken in the Bamyan Province, which is located west of the capital of Kabul. Published accounts say the fighters were riding the pedalos in Band-e Amir National Park, which used to be a destination for international travelers. The pictures were reportedly taken on Saturday.

“The park contains a series of six deep blue lakes situated in the Hindu Kush mountains, roughly 45 miles from Bamiyan – formerly the home of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which the Taliban destroyed in 2001,” the Daily Mail reported.

The odd scene at the park comes as the Taliban face rising unrest after establishing a ministry for the “propagation of virtue of the prevention of vice” in a building where the Women’s Affairs Ministry used to be in Kabul.

Taliban officials have reportedly told most female staffers who worked for the government to stay home, the only exceptions being for women who cannot be replaced by a male worker.

The new restrictions are being put in place despite previous pledges by the Taliban of inclusivity as the new regime begins adopting and implementing strict gender-based policies that the militant group had in place before the U.S. invasion in 2001 knocked them out of power.

In another sign of a return to the old ways, for instance, Taliban officials have barred girls from going back to secondary school while ordering boys and male-only teachers to resume class, another breach of a previous promise to implement a less harsh government than what was in place during the 1990s.

“All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” said a statement from the country’s education ministry on Friday. It did not include any instructions for female students and teachers.

The restrictions, however, are being met with some resistance, the Daily Mail noted. Afghan women have begun to protest the return to a restrictive society, and some males are joining them in a show of solidarity. The outlet said that one Afghan boy was seen holding a sign that said, “We don’t go to school without our sisters.”

One BBC correspondent, Ali Hamedani, posted an audio report featuring an Afghan girl from Mazar-a-Sharif who complained about the new restrictions.

“Everyday I wake up and ask myself why I am alive? Should I stay at home and wait for someone to knock the door and ask me to marry him? Is this the purpose of being a woman?” she said.

No country in the world bans girls’ education. Except in #Afghanistan. Taliban have de facto banned girls’ education, a key feature of their repressive, brutal rule of the 1990s. Twenty years of progress in female education is vanishing in just weeks,” noted Radio Free Europe correspondent Frud Bezhan.

“Schools reopened across Afghanistan today, for all boys. Teenage girls now being denied an education. This young girl asks ‘why shouldn’t we go to school?’ Life under Taliban rule seems to be reverting back to the 90s,” BBC correspondent Yalda Hakim posted, along with a photo of a young girl holding a sign.

Jon Dougherty

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