San Francisco Chronicle

Taliban tighten rules for women at universiti­es

- By Kathy Gannon Kathy Gannon is an Associated Press writer.

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.

 ?? Felipe Dana / Associated Press ?? Girls head to classrooms at a school in Kabul. For women enrolled in universiti­es, the Taliban decreed that classrooms will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress compulsory.
Felipe Dana / Associated Press Girls head to classrooms at a school in Kabul. For women enrolled in universiti­es, the Taliban decreed that classrooms will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress compulsory.

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