Students segregated as university term resumes in Kabul

Curtains cut classrooms in two while women must enter through separate doors under Taliban rules

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The world was given an insight into what education under the Taliban might look like in Afghanistan’s capital on Monday after photos and a video from private universities were shared online.

One photograph showed male and female students divided by a grey curtain with notepads resting on tables, facing the front of the room.

The Taliban has said women and girls would be allowed access to education, a strong departure from its 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan when women’s freedom was severely curtailed.

The Taliban education authority issued a lengthy document on Sunday outlining measures for the classroom, which also ruled that men and women should be segregated or at least divided by a curtain if there are 15 students or fewer.

From now on at private colleges and universities, which have mushroomed since the Taliban’s first rule ended, women must be taught only by other women, or “old men”, and use a women-only entrance.

They must end their lessons five minutes earlier than men to stop the sexes from mingling outside.

So far, the Taliban has said nothing about public universities.

The group has also said women must wear an abaya and niqab, a policy opposed by many students and academic institutions.

“Our students don’t accept this and we will have to close the university,” said Noor Ali Rahmani, the director of Gharjistan University in Kabul, on an almost empty campus on Monday.

“Our students wear the hijab, not the niqab,” he said, referring to a headscarf.

For some students, however, it was a relief that women would still be able to attend university at all under a new Taliban regime.

Zuhra Bahman, who runs a scholarship programme for women in Afghanistan, said she had communicated with some students on social media.

“They are happy to go back to university, albeit in hijab,” she said. “Taliban opening universities for women is a key progress. Let’s continue to engage to agree on other rights and freedoms.”

Updated: September 7th 2021, 3:37 PM
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