By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday it is supporting the relocation of Afghan girls to Rwanda to continue their education.
The support follows the decision by the Taliban to ban women and girls from secondary and tertiary education.
The girls are among the first overseas students admitted to the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) -- an Afghan all-girls boarding school based initially in Kabul, before it was forced to relocate to Rwanda following the ban, said the IOM.
In December, the Taliban expanded restrictions on women's education, most recently banning women from university study indefinitely and working in local and international non-governmental organizations.
Since August 2021, following their return to power after the officials of the US-backed Kabul administration fled the country and foreign forces withdrew, the Taliban imposed several restrictions on women that compelled many professionals to leave Afghanistan.
- Safe space for girls
As the first and only school of its kind, SOLA provides a safe space for Afghan girls to receive a secondary-level education, with a vision of creating a generation of female leaders, said IOM.
"The dedication and strength of Afghan women and girls in the face of such adversity inspires and humbles us every day," said IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino. "This initiative fills me with hope and resolve to continue our advocacy alongside women and girls in the country for an Afghanistan that acknowledges, promotes, and builds on the contributions of its women and invests in its girls."
The girls' arrival in Rwanda follows an agreement between the IOM and SOLA to assist with safe travel arrangements and relocation of its students -- already outside Afghanistan -- from their current countries of residence to the campus in Rwanda.
The students who arrived were assisted and escorted to the SOLA campus by IOM staff.
"The students were very excited to be traveling to their school. During the flight, the youngest girl was given a pilot's hat, and sunglasses," according to an unnamed IOM staffer escorting the students.
SOLA's founder, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, said: "March 2023 marks one year since the Taliban closed the doors of girls' schools in Afghanistan, denying Afghan girls the right to study past 6th grade."
She said: "It is incredibly meaningful to me that they are now arriving in Rwanda to pursue their education, and I am endlessly grateful to IOM for helping facilitate their safe travel to our school, where they will grow to become members of a generation of leaders who one day will help rebuild Afghanistan."
The new students will join their SOLA classmates, whom the Rwandan government welcomed in August 2021.
IOM said it would continue to help relocate more Afghan students to SOLA.