Women in Afghanistan will be banned from studying at university with men, the Taliban has announced.
Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the Taliban’s new minister of higher education, announced in a press conference in Kabul on Sunday that women would also be required to wear “Islamic hijab” during university classes, but did not clarify whether this meant a full face covering.
The new rules were issued a day after the Taliban hoisted their flag over the presidential palace in Kabul on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, signalling the beginning of the new government in Afghanistan.
The Taliban didn’t allow girls into schools and universities when they first ruled Afghanistan between 1996 to 2001. But in the last two decades, UNESCO reported an increase of girls in primary school education from almost zero to 2.5 million.
Schools in ultra-conservative Afghanistan were already widely segregated by gender, but up until now, students had attended university in mixed classes.
Last week, a few private universities in the country reopened their doors to students, using curtains to separate men and women, a measure that the minister of higher education said would not be enough for the Taliban.
Haqqani said he was confident that people would accept the new measures. “We have no issues ending the mixed education system,” he said. “People are Muslims, and they will accept it.”
Under the rules unveiled by Haqqani, some subjects contradicting "Islamic values” will be phased out at universities without any specification of which courses, and he said that they will lean on "technology" if there are no women professors to teach female students.
The new education policies came a day after a pro-Taliban rally involving 300 women mostly dressed in black niqabs. They women chanted slogans favouring the Islamists after attending a seminar on the benefits of gender segregation in Shaheed Rabbani Education University in Kabul.
But a university student told VICE World News that the rally painted a misleading impression of the situation in the country.
“The Taliban are lying to everyone, and they are using women for their lies,” the student from Kabul said. “Otherwise, who would go on the streets asking to get oppressed and put inside a house for the rest of their lives. They just used the women to get something to use on the television screens and say, ‘look, Afghan women want gender segregation’.”
Many students remain hesitant to go back to classrooms and feel less hopeful for the future of education in Afghanistan. Some believe it is only another empty promise the Taliban gave to avoid any international scrutiny in their early days in power.
“Today, the Taliban is saying that they will only separate the classes, tomorrow they will introduce a whole new list of restrictions and rules, and that will continue until every Afghan woman gives up on going to the university,” the student added.