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Afghan women at university must study in female-only classrooms, Taliban say

Afghan women at university must study in female-only classrooms, Taliban say

The Taliban have announced that women in Afghanistan will only be allowed to study at university in gender-segregated classrooms and Islamic dress will be compulsory, stoking fears that a gender apartheid will be imposed on the country under the new regime.

On Saturday, the Taliban raised their flag over the presidential palace on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, signalling that their work governing the newly formed Islamic emirate had begun. The white banner bearing a Qur’anic verse was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the interim Taliban government.

That same day, Rohullah Azizi, the brother of the former vice-president and anti-Taliban resistance leader Amrullah Saleh, was shot dead at a Taliban checkpoint. Saleh has declared himself the legitimate acting president of Afghanistan, and has been leading the embattled forces resisting the Taliban in Panjshir.

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The international community has been keeping a close watch on how the new, all-male, Taliban regime is treating Afghan women in order to gauge just how much the Taliban’s pledges of moderation are a reality.

In one of the first policies announced by the Taliban, the higher education minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out a series of rules that will govern women’s access to higher education in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a press conference, Haqqani said women would be allowed to continue their university education, but it would be compulsory to wear a hijab. It was unclear if this meant a headscarf or that women’s faces would have to be covered completely.

Gender segregation would also be enforced at all universities, meaning men and women would have to be taught in separate classrooms. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” said Haqqani. “We will not allow co-education.”

Afghanistan Kandahar Taliban Checkpiont - 11 Sep 2021
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock (12439760c) A member of Taliban stands guard at a security checkpoint in Kandahar city, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2021. Afghanistan Kandahar Taliban Checkpiont - 11 Sep 2021 Afghanistan’s shrinking horizons: ‘Women feel everything is finished’
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Female students will also only be allowed to be taught by women. Haqqani also said the subjects being taught at universities would be reviewed.

The Taliban have promised their new government will be more representative and respectful of the rights of women and girls – though still within an “Islamic framework” – than when they previously held power between 1996 and 2001. Back then, women were prevented from going to school and work, were not allowed out of the house without a male chaperone, and were forced to comply with draconian laws governing “female virtue”.

The full agenda of the Taliban has still not been announced. Nevertheless, as in the previous regime, there is not a single woman in the cabinet, despite promises of an “inclusive” government, and women have been banned from sports. In a recent interview on the TV channel Tolo News, Taliban spokesman Sayed Zekrullah Hashimi said the role of women was to give birth and raise children, adding that it was “not necessary that women be in the cabinet”.

The new education policies mark a significant departure from how universities were functioning previously. Before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August, universities across Afghanistan had been co-educational and women did not have to conform to any dress code. The number of female students in further education had reached record highs, and institutions such as Herat University and Ghalib University in Kabul had boasted more female students than male.

Since the Taliban took power, however, many female students have stayed at home out of uncertainty and fear, and women who took to the streets in protest in recent days demanding equal rights were met with violence and gunfire.

“We are receiving increasing reports where the Taliban have prohibited women from appearing

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