When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan following the United States’ military pull-out from the country, there were some voices here in Asia who amplified the group’s claims that they had changed for the better. Leaders from the likes of Malaysia ’s hardline Islamist political party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), eagerly parroted the Taliban’s publicity blitz that the country would not return to the same state it was in when the group was last in power in the 1990s. Then, women were confined to their homes, public executions were commonplace and television and music was banned. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s long-time spokesman, promised to uphold women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law. I remember being deeply cynical then and was shocked when the influential PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang declared to Malaysians last August that the Taliban had changed, and that anyone saying otherwise had somehow been duped by the Western media. Alas, we now know that when it comes to a group like the Taliban, so fastidious in wanting to preserve the mores of the Middle Ages, change is outside the realm of possibility. On Wednesday, the Taliban administration offered the clearest sign of this: hours after girls’ high schools had opened their doors for the first time in seven months, they were swiftly shut again . Heartbreak as Taliban orders girls home, hours after schools reopen The so-called Education Ministry said it was having second thoughts on the reopening, and that schools for girls would be closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture. “We inform all girls’ high schools and those schools that are having female students above class six that they are off until the next order,” the official Bakhtar News Agency quoted the ministry as saying. The Taliban’s infringements against women are wide-ranging. A BBC investigative report in February found that a number of women who took part in protests demanding their rights were now missing. Sadly, all this comes as no surprise. In Asia, and across the world, the media, civil society and governments must redouble our efforts to keep up pressure on the Taliban. Defeatism – saying nothing will work and that options are limited – is not an option. One key lever that governments have is official recognition of the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers, a status the group so dearly craves. Afghan women and girls still trapped despite promises As all eyes are trained on the atrocities in Ukraine , we in Asia cannot take our eyes away from the crises in places such as Afghanistan and Myanmar . To borrow the words of the Afghan women’s rights activist Fawziah Koofi, we are duty bound to remind the Taliban – and indeed their backers like Hadi Awang – that they are destined for the dustbin of history if they continue to ride roughshod on women’s rights.