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Campaigner for girls’ education arrested in Afghanistan

Matiullah Wesa, who was detained in Kabul, is founder of a non-governmental group that travels across Afghanistan with a mobile school and library.

Afghanistan Schools
Afghanistan Schools

An Afghan human rights activist who has campaigned for girls’ education has been arrested in Kabul.

The UN mission in Afghanistan said Matiullah Wesa, founder and president of Pen Path — a non-governmental group that travels across Afghanistan with a mobile school and library — was arrested in Kabul on Monday.

Local reports said Taliban security forces detained Mr Wesa after his return from a trip to Europe.

The UN urged authorities in Kabul to clarify Mr Wesa’s whereabouts, the reasons for his arrest and ensure he has access to legal representation and contact with his family.

Since their takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed restrictions on women’s and minority rights.

Girls are barred from school beyond the sixth grade and last year the Taliban banned women from going to university.

Mr Wesa has been outspoken in his demands for girls to have the right to go to school and learn, and has repeatedly called on the Taliban-led government to reverse its bans.

His most recent tweets about female education coincided with the start of the new academic year in Afghanistan, with girls remaining shut out of classrooms and campuses.

The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said he was alarmed by Mr Wesa’s detention.

“His safety is paramount & all his legal rights must be respected,” Mr Bennett tweeted.

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