Pro-Taleban students attend rally at Shaheed Rabbani Education University in Kabul on Saturday — Photo: Epa/Via BBC
Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani indicated that women would be allowed to study, but not close to men. He also announced a review of the subjects taught to students.
The Taliban said that will not prevent women from getting an education or having jobs. But since taking control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15, the group has determined that all women except those in the public health sector, away from work until “country security” improved.
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The announcement of changes in higher education comes a day after the Taliban raises its flag at the presidential palace, signaling the start of its administration. The new educational policy refers to the period in which he commanded the country, from 1996 to 2001, the year he was overthrown by the US for links with the group responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Women and girls were banned from schools and universities under Taliban rule. After the fall of the group, the students did not have to obey a dress code and the universities were mixed, with men and women studying side by side.
For the new Minister of Higher Education, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, there will be no problem in ending the mixed education system because “the people are Muslims and they will accept it”.
Since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, enormous progress has been made in improving education enrollment and literacy rates in Afghanistan, especially for girls and women.
During a pro-Taliban rally in front of Shaheed Rabbani University in Kabul, women hold posters and banners – “we don’t want co-education,” says one. — Photo: Aamir Qureshi
A recent report by UNESCO, the education arm of the United Nations (UN) found that the number of girls in primary school had risen from almost zero to 2.5 million in the 17 years following the fall of the Taliban.
The report also said that the female literacy rate had nearly doubled in a decade, to 30%.
Now the situation could get worse, according to experts. Some of them claim that the new segregation rules will exclude women from education because universities do not have the resources to offer separate classes.
The minister denied this possibility and said that there are enough teachers. Where they are not available, Haqqani said “alternatives” will be found.
“It all depends on the capacity of the university. We can also use male professors to teach (students) from behind a curtain or use technology.”
Girls and boys will also be segregated in primary and secondary schools, which was already common throughout Afghanistan.
Women will be required to wear hijabs, but Haqqani did not specify whether additional facial coverings would again be mandatory.
The new minister also said that the subjects taught at universities will be reviewed. He told reporters that the Taliban wants to “create a reasonable Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values and, on the other hand, is able to compete with other countries.”
The announcement came soon after a rally by women supporting the Taliban’s new gender policies at Shaheed Rabbani Education University in Kabul.
Hundreds of women, most of them wearing black niqabs and carrying small Taliban flags, heard speeches praising the new regime and attacking those involved in large demonstrations across the country demanding the protection of women’s rights acquired when the Islamic fundamentalist group was out of power.
Ongoing changes are not restricted to the education sector.
The new Taliban government replaced the Ministry of Women’s Affairs with the Virtue Ministry.
The dreaded department was responsible, until the early 2000s, for sending religious police into the streets to enforce a radical interpretation of Sharia law (Islamic law). He became known, for example, for beating women accused of dressing indecently or of leaving home without a guardian.
Afghanistan’s imminent resumption of power prompted several prominent women to flee the country before mid-August. The country’s biggest pop singer, Aryana Sayeed, traveled on a US cargo plane and famous film director Sahraa Karimi was flown to Ukraine.
The country’s women’s soccer team, created in 2007, also managed to escape.