San Francisco Chronicle
Taliban tighten rules for women at universities
KABUL — Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at postgraduate levels, but classrooms will be gendersegregated and Islamic dress compulsory, the higher education minister in the new Taliban government said Sunday.
The minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out the new policies at a news conference, several days after Afghanistan’s new rulers formed an all-male government. On Saturday, the Taliban had raised their flag over the presidential palace, signaling the start of the work of the new government.
The world has been watching closely to see to what extent the Taliban might act differently from their first time in power, in the late 1990s. During that era, girls and women were denied an education, and were excluded from public life.
The Taliban have suggested they have changed, including in their attitudes toward women. However, women have been banned from sports and the Taliban have used violence in recent days against women protesters demanding equal rights.
Haqqani said the Taliban did not want to turn the clock back 20 years. “We will start building on what exists today,” he said.
But female university students will face restrictions, including a compulsory dress code. Haqqani 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.”
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.
The Taliban, who subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam, banned music and art during their previous time in
power. This time around television has remained and news channels still show female presenters, but the Taliban messaging has been erratic.
The Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, the day they overran the capital of Kabul after capturing outlying provinces in a rapid military campaign. They initially promised inclusiveness and a general amnesty for their former opponents, but many Afghans remain deeply fearful of the new rulers.
The new higher education policy signals a change from the accepted practice before the Taliban takeover. Universities were coed, with men and women studying side by side, and female students did not have to abide by a dress code. In elementary and high schools, boys and girls were taught separately, even before the Taliban came to power.