Abdul Baqi Haqqani, Afghanistan’s Higher Education Minister, stated that women would continue to be allowed to study, but not in the same classes as men. From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban rule banned women and girls from schools and universities entirely. Whilst women are still being allowed access to education, Haqqani added that there will be a review on the subjects taught to all students in higher education.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on 15 August, raising its flag over the presidential palace on 11 September. They announced that women will not be prevented from working, but have been warned not to go to work until the security situation improves. Women in the public health sector are permitted to continue working.
As well as banning co-educational universities, the Taliban is also enforcing a dress code on female students. Haqqani spoke on behalf of the Taliban, stating that, “[W]e have no problems in ending the mixed-education system. The people are Muslims and they will accept it.” There has been some concern that universities will not have the resources or an adequate number of female staff to run sufficient classes for women. Haqqani responded saying, “[I]t all depends on the university’s capacity. We can also use male teachers to teach from behind a curtain, or use technology.”
The country-wide curriculum review will ensure that the Taliban can “create a reasonable and Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values and, on the other hand, be able to compete with other countries,” stated Haqqani. Single-sex primary schools were already common throughout much of Afghanistan, and now segregation will be enforced if it is not already in place.
The new dress code requires women to wear hijabs, but no further information has been given on additional face coverings becoming mandatory. Before Haqqani’s announcement, hundreds of women demonstrated their support for the Taliban’s policies, gathering in the streets to hear speeches, holding small Taliban flags, and wearing black niqabs. These demonstrations spoke explicitly against the protests for the protection of women’s rights occurring across the country.
However, dozens of women in Kabul gathered in protest since the Taliban takeover, stating that they would not accept a government with no female ministers. Reports stated that some of the women were beaten before the protests were dispersed. The Taliban have deemed these protests illegal, as the protesters did not have the required permission.
Progress made since the 2001 removal of the Taliban from power has seen the number of girls in primary school increase from nearly 0 to 2.5 million in 17 years, according to a recent report by UNESCO. The report also found that the rates of literacy in women and girls had almost doubled in 10 years, to 30 percent. During the Taliban’s period of power from 1996 to 2001, they were responsible for enforcing Sharia law via religious police. At this time, the police force was known for beating women for going outside without a male chaperone or for dressing immodestly.
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