Several new Taliban madrasas established and multiple others reported in nationwide drive
In April, the Taliban pledged to open “three to 10” madrasas in each province of Afghanistan
22 Jun 2022
Noorullah Mounir, the Taliban’s Education Minister, has stressed that the group’s current priority is to focus on religious education and a number of new Taliban madrasas have been reported across Afghanistan in recent months.
Afghan Witness (AW) has been tracking the reported openings of Taliban madrasas in Afghanistan, and where possible, has verified their locations. AW has so far been able to verify the locations of madrasas reported in the provinces of Ghor, Faryab, Balkh, and Khost. According to news reports, Taliban madrasas have also been established in six other provinces.
Firuzkuh, Ghor Province
According to news reports, on June 22, the ‘Jihad Al-Jihadi School of Religious Studies’ was inaugurated in Firuzkuh, the capital of Ghor province, by local Taliban and security officials. Reports state that the madrasa was established by order of Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzadeh, the Taliban leader in Ghor province, and is claimed to have a capacity of 1,000 students.
One news article reports that Mawlawi Mahfoz, Director of Education for the province, said that religious schools are firm frontlines of "Jihad" and "struggle". According to the article, religious scholars and a number of Taliban members spoke about the importance of the establishment of religious schools and the value of science and knowledge, emphasizing the need for greater support of religious schools in Afghan society.
AW were able to geolocate images of the newly established madrasa in Ghor:
Maimana, Faryab Province On June 15, it was reported by Pajhwok News that the local administration of Faryab province established a religious school for 1,000 students in the city of Maimana under the name of “Farooqiyah community”. According to a Facebook post, the Abu Moslem Khorasani Darul Uloom Lilia building was first inaugurated in 2019.
AW investigators were able to geolocate the building:
Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province
The opening of a madrasa in Balkh province at the beginning of June attracted greater media attention. On June 1, Etilaatroz reported that the Taliban took over a former broadcast building in Balkh province and turned it into a madrasa. According to the article, the building – previously used by Mitra TV – is located in Mazar-e Sharif and is owned by the former Balkh Governor, Atta Mohammad Noor, who is now a leading opposition figure and part of the Supreme Resistance Council. Mitra TV stopped broadcasting following the Taliban takeover in August 2021, after ten years of activity.
The AW team were able to geolocate the building:
The same day, Paikan TV, a Mazar-e Sharif TV channel, published a video of the inauguration of the new madrasa. In the video, the head of the Taliban's Minister of Education, Noorullah Mounir, addressed criticism of the madrasa’s establishment:
“We are blamed for building a central Madrasa in every province but not schools. Are there few schools in cities and provinces? No, there may be dozens of high schools in your province where there are not one thousand students but thousands of students. We have about 20,000 schools throughout Afghanistan, but we do not have as many as 1,000 formal Madrasas under the umbrella of the government and the Ministry of Education.”
Another article reported that the Taliban's Director of Education in Balkh province, Abdul Jalil Shahidkhel, stated at the inauguration that religious schools such as this one are a good option for "fighting the invasion of foreign cultures." According to the report, local Taliban officials in Balkh said the new institution will teach up to 1,000 students at a time.
Unnamed local sources – including a local journalist, a CSO activist, and two local residents – told AW that the building was used as a Taliban military base in the first two months after the fall of the former government. The sources say that in recent months, the Mitra TV broadcasting building has been turned into a religious school. The civil activist and the local resident contacted by AW confirmed that, even though the madrasa was only officially inaugurated on June 1, it had been operating for a month prior to this. The local resident and local journalist added that the madrasa, which they say has been named “Central Jihadi Madrasa” by the Taliban, will be the largest in Mazar-e Sharif.
Taloqan, Takhar Province
On June 2, Afghan News reported that the Taliban converted the Takhar State Technical and Vocational Institute into a madrasa. According to their sources, the former institute was reopened as a religious school on June 1 by Maulvi Mohsen Hashemi, the Taliban Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs, by order of the current Taliban leader Hebatullah Akhundzada.
According to an article by Bakhtar News, the opening ceremony consisted of several heads of government institutions, Muslim scholars, and the media. One of the scholars at Takhar, Rumi Robhanullah, conveyed his gratitude to Taliban leaders for establishing the madrasa and called it an “effective step towards protecting the religion of Islam and the spread of Islamic sciences”. An article published by 8am.af reported that the 236 students who attended the institute have requested the Taliban’s permission to continue their studies elsewhere.
Pol-e Charkhi, Kabul Province
According to news reports, on May 25, the Taliban’s state television channel said the Taliban had opened "Afghanistan's largest religious school" in the Pol-e Charkhi area, east of Kabul, claiming it will train 1,000 students in each course. A month prior to this, it was reported that the acting head of the Taliban's Education Ministry, Noorullah Mounir, had appeared at a rally in the eastern province of Logar where he announced that the group would soon establish “three to 10” religious schools in each district of Afghanistan. According to the report, Mounir emphasised the need for further teaching of “religious sciences'' and for teachers to develop “Islamic belief” in their students.
Madrasas in Other Provinces
On May 26, Afghanistan International published an article stating the Taliban had already converted three secondary schools and a teacher training academy into religious schools in the provinces of Khost, Paktia, Kandahar, and Kunar. The article reported that the Taliban governor’s office in Kunar issued a press release informing that “Al-Jamea Al Muhammadiyah Jihadi School" had been inaugurated by a special decree from the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in the presence of Noorullah Munir, the acting head of the Taliban Ministry of Education. The statement adds that the school has a dormitory and is expected to attract thousands of students from across the country.
Several months before, on March 26, a Twitter user with almost 3k followers shared a photo of the entrance of the Abdul Hai Habibi High School in Khost with the caption “Changing the name of Abdul Hai Habibi (Habibia) school should not be our priority, there are more important things, but maybe i don't understand it”.
On May 17, Abdullhaq Omeri, an Afghan journalist with over 65k followers on Twitter, published a claim that the Taliban had converted the Abdul Hai Habibi High School in Khost into a madrasa.
A photo from the high school’s Facebook page shows the original sign on the front of the school, whilst Mr Omeri’s tweet shares a photo of the current front of the building, now converted into a madrasa.
AW were able to geolocate the images of the building.
In recent decades, madrasas have grown in influence in Afghanistan as a way to provide education to those in rural areas, particularly those in poorer communities. Previously, the madrasa system was sustained mainly through community-driven efforts, with most of its funding coming from private sources. However, some AW sources expressed concerns over the types of madrasas being established by the Taliban. Sources in Mazar-e Sharif who spoke to AW about the so-called “Central Jihadi Madrasa” say they are concerned that young boys attending this madrasa would be trained as radical Jihadists and religious fighters. The civil activist added that this appears to be similar to the madrasas established after the rise of the Taliban in 1994, focused on the group's ideals of Islamic teachings, and responsible for training most of the regime's fighters and officials in the past.
The reported openings of the Taliban madrasas come at a time when high schools remain closed for girls in Afghanistan, despite widespread condemnation from the international community. Earlier this year, universities reopened after nearly nine months, but classes are gender segregated and female students must adhere to a dress code.