Universities in Afghanistan will now be segregated by gender, the Taliban said on Sunday, adding that woman will have to adhere to a strict Islamic dress code. The announcement, which came mere days after the Taliban appointed an all-male government, comes as the world keeps close tabs on how Afghanistan’s new rulers will treat women. The last time the Taliban was in power, girls and women were forbidden from pursuing an education. Now the Taliban have insisted they’ve changed but women have been banned from playing sports and recent protests by women have been broken up violently. While the Taliban have said that women will be allowed to hold jobs they’ve asked all female workers outside the health care sector to not go to work due to the security situation. The new rules for universities came a day after the Taliban raised their flag over the presidential palace.
Before the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan again, women were allowed to study alongside men and they didn’t have to abide by a dress code. “We have no problems in ending the mixed-education system,” Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the higher education minister of the new Taliban government, said. “The people are Muslims and they will accept it.” One university student said that this was a sign of what could be expected in the country as a whole. “It will spread to other parts of the society as well,” a 21-year-old university student tells the Washington Post.
Some have expressed concern that the move to segregate universities will essentially end education for women because universities don’t have the resources to run two parallel institutions and there aren’t enough female teachers. “The Taliban are talking about segregation but we are one of the biggest and best equipped universities in Afghanistan, and still don’t have capacity to do that,” a professor at Herat University tells the Guardian. A female student who is studying for a science degree in Kandahar tells the Guardian that her university has already told her it didn’t make economic sense to teach women separately from men. There’s also concern that there aren’t enough experienced female teachers for all the courses. Haqqani, however, said alternatives could be explored. “It all depends on the university’s capacity,” he said. “We can also use male teachers to teach from behind a curtain, or use technology.”