Taliban Says Women Can Study In Gender-Segregated Universities

Students attend a class with men and women separated by a curtain at a private university in Kabul | AFP file photo

Kabul- Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at the postgraduate level, but classrooms will be gender-segregated and head coverings will be compulsory.

Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani laid out the new policies at a news conference on Sunday, a day after the Taliban raised their flag over the presidential palace, signalling the start of work of the new, all-male government announced last week.

The Taliban’s rise has stoked fears the group would turn back to the draconian rule that defined its first stint in power in Afghanistan 20 years ago. That included the denial of education for girls and women, as well as their exclusion from public life.

“We will start building on what exists today,” Haqqani said, maintaining the Taliban’s position that its attitudes, particularly towards women, have shifted in the past 20 years.

The most recent statement comes as the group has sought international legitimacy following its lightning-fast offensive across the country as the United States prepared to withdraw troops by an August 31 deadline. The Taliban took Kabul on August 15.

Despite the Taliban’s posturing, women have been banned from sports and the Taliban has used violence in recent days against female protesters demanding equal rights.

‘Will not allow co-education’
On Sunday, Haqqani said female university students will face restrictions that include a compulsory dress code. He said hijabs will be mandatory but did not specify if this meant compulsory headscarves or also compulsory face coverings.

Gender segregation will also be enforced, he said. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said. “We will not allow co-education.”

He said female students would be taught by women wherever possible. “Thanks to God we have a high number of women teachers. We will not face any problems in this. All efforts will be made to find and provide women teachers for female students,” he said.

Haqqani said the subjects being taught would also be reviewed.

While he did not elaborate, he said he wanted graduates of Afghanistan’s universities to be competitive with university graduates in the region and the rest of the world.

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