Taliban to Reopen Public Universities Wednesday, No Details on Female Students’ Return to Classes

Woman in Afghanistan

The Taliban announced Sunday that public universities in Afghanistan will reopen from this week but offered no details about whether or not female students will be allowed to return to classes.

During a media conference, the acting Higher Education Minister Shaikh Abdul Baqi Haqqani said that Afghan universities in warmer provinces will reopen on February 2, whereas universities located in colder parts of the country are expected to reopen from February 26.

The announcement comes after the global community urged the Taliban to respect the human rights of all people in Afghanistan, in particular women’s rights, and allow the latter to access education and employment, Erudera.com reports.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Taliban to recognize basic human rights if they aim to become part of the global community.

“In Afghanistan, women & girls are once again being denied their rights to education, employment & equal justice. To demonstrate a real commitment to be a part of the global community, the Taliban must recognize & uphold the basic human rights that belong to every girl & woman,” Guterres wrote Sunday on Twitter.

To date, the Taliban have reopened some high schools offering lessons only for boys as well as some private universities, and most often, female students were not permitted to return to classes. In September 2021, the Taliban allowed female students at 150 private universities to return to classes; however, female students were separated from men in the classroom by curtains.

In addition, the Taliban ordered women attending university to wear hijabs and cover their faces and bodies, according to Sharia law. 

Afghan students
Afghan students attending class at Avicenna University in Kabul, on September 6, 2021 – Picture obtained by Reuters from social media.

“Putting up curtains is not acceptable. I really felt terrible when I entered the class. We are gradually going back to 20 years ago,” a 21-year-old student of Kabul University Anjila told Reuters back then.

The Taliban-led Ministry of Education had also approved a proposal from Afghanistan’s union of universities, according to which, there must be separate entrances for female and male students at Afghan higher education institutions and that only female teachers should teach female students. Sometimes, they could also be taught by “old men of good character.”

Public universities in Afghanistan were closed after the Taliban seized control of the country back in August 2021 as the US withdrew its troops after 20 years in Afghanistan. The Taliban government has not been officially recognized by any country since it took over Afghanistan.

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