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Taliban: Women can study at university but not in the same room as men

Afghan women can study at university but not in the same room as men, Taliban declare

  • Male teachers will not be allowed to teach female students under new rules
  • Taliban’s acting higher education minister made the announcement on Sunday 
  • Private universities have opposed move, saying there are too few female staff 
  • Some have raised concerns change will effectively restrict access to education 
  • It comes amid fears that Taliban rule will lead to a curbing of women’s rights 
  • The group has said it will not oppress women, as it did when it was last in power, but many doubt its sincerity 

Afghan women will be allowed to study at university, but not in the same room as men, the Taliban has declared.

The group’s acting higher education minister also said that male teachers will not be permitted to teach female students under new rules.

The announcement comes amid concerns that Afghanistan’s return to Taliban rule will curb progress made towards women’s rights. 

The Taliban is in the process of hammering out a framework for its government, having captured all but one of the country’s 34 provinces, but has indicated that it intends to rule based on its interpretation of Sharia law. 

The group has been at pains to attempt to reassure Afghan citizens and the international community that it will not return to severely restricting the rights of women, as it did during its previous rule, but many doubt the militants’ sincerity on this issue.

Afghan women will be allowed to study at university, but not in the same room as men, the Taliban has declared. The group’s acting higher education minister also said that male teachers will not be permitted to teach female students under new rules. Pictured: A male teacher addresses a co-educational journalism class at the Mashal Institute of Higher Education in Kabul 

The education announcement comes amid concerns that Afghanistan’s return to Taliban rule will curb progress made towards women’s rights. Pictured: Students attend Kabul University in 2010

‘The people of Afghanistan will continue their higher education in the light of Sharia law in safety without being in a mixed male and female environment,’ Abul Baqi Haqqani, the Taliban’s acting minister for higher education, said in a meeting on Sunday, adding: ‘men will not be allowed to teach girls.’

Haqqani also explained that changes would be made to the curriculum to ‘create a reasonable and Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values, and, on the other hand, be able to compete with other countries’.

Under former president Ashraf Ghani, whose government was toppled when the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, the rights of women and girls were extended, allowing many to study and work. 

However, co-education was not widespread in the deeply conservative country.

The owners of private universities have objected to the separation of male and female students and said that there are not enough female teachers to facilitate segregated learning, according to Taliban Watch, an independent group of human rights researchers.

Others, including journalist Bashir Ahmad Gwakh, have pointed out that the move will ‘effectively deprive girls from higher education because universities cannot afford it nor there are[sic] enough human resources’.

There is widespread suspicion among Afghans over the new Taliban regime’s assertions that it is different from the previous one.

The last time the group was in power from 1996 to 2001, it imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. It banned women from education and public spaces, brutally executed political opponents and massacred religious and ethnic minorities such as the Hazaras.  

The Taliban has promised a softer system this time around, including rights for women.

It has also pledged an inclusive government, holding talks with a variety of influential Afghan political figures – including former US-backed president Hamid Karzai. 

It has even sent representatives to the Shiite Hazara minority, which suffered brutal violence at the hands of the Taliban in the 1990s.

While there has been relief in some parts of rural Afghanistan where people wanted an end to the violence, many Afghans say that actions, not words, matter.

Women, particularly in cities, remain fearful of stepping outside, and there is at least one pocket of armed resistance in the Panjshir valley, a traditional anti-Taliban bastion.

There is widespread suspicion among Afghans over the new Taliban regime’s assertions that it is different from the previous one. Pictured: Students walk through Kabul University campus on their way to register for classes in 2001

The Taliban has promised a softer system this time around, including rights for women. Pictured: A Taliban fighter stands guard as its acting minister for higher education, Abul Baqi Haqqani (not pictured), addresses a meeting on Sunday

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