Somaya Faruqi speaks for the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan, in front of the United Nations in an emotional speech.

Somaya Faruqi was the captain of the Afghan girls’ international robotics team last year. In August, she fled her country as the Taliban seized power and the United States and other allies withdrew support. She now attends the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“I was in classroom last year, but this year girls are not in classrooms. Classrooms are empty, and they are at their homes. So it was too hard to control myself, control my feelings,” said Faruqi, now 20, to news agencies.

The Taliban, who initially promised to ensure women’s education in occupied Afghanistan, have not carried out that promise. Women are not currently allowed to attend school or to work outside the home. Under Taliban law, women can’t leave the home at all without a male relative, and must cover their faces.

The Transforming Education Summit on Monday had a great deal to say about Afghanistan.

“Girls’ education is among the most important steps to deliver peace, security and sustainable development, everywhere,” said Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in an appeal to the Taliban to “lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education immediately.”

Somaya Faruqi urged the world leaders to do more than talk.

“This week, you are all here to propose solutions to transform education to all, but you must not forget those who left behind, those who are not lucky enough to be at school at all,” said Faruqi. “Show your solidarity with me and millions of Afghan girls.”

Also speaking for Aghan girls was Malala Yousafzi, the young woman who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for attending school in Pakistan, ten years ago. She was more direct.

“Most of you know what exactly needs to be done. You must not make small, stingy and short-term pledges, but commit to uphold the right to complete education and close the funding gap once and for all,” Yousafzai said on Monday.

Photo: solmaz daryani / Shutterstock