SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 18 September 2021, Saturday |

Curtain divides male, female students as Afghan universities open under Taliban rule

Students across Afghanistan have started returning to university classrooms after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, and in some cases females have been separated from their male peers by curtains or boards down the middle of the room.

What happens in universities and schools across the country will be closely watched by foreign powers for signs of what rights women will have now the movement is back in charge.

Some Western countries have said crucial support and recognition of the Taliban would depend on how they ran the country, including their treatment of girls and women.

When it last ruled from 1996-2001, the group banned girls from school and women from university and work.

Despite assurances in recent weeks that women’s rights would be honored in accordance with Islamic law, it is unclear what that will mean in practice.

Teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities – Kabul, Kandahar and Herat – told Reuters that female students were being segregated in class, taught separately or restricted to certain parts of the campus.

“Putting up curtains is not acceptable,” Anjila, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University who returned to find her classroom partitioned, told Reuters by telephone.

“I really felt terrible when I entered the class … We are gradually going back to 20 years ago.”

Even before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Anjila said female students sat separately from males. But classrooms were not physically divided.

The Taliban said last week that schooling should resume but that males and females should be separated.

A Taliban spokesperson did not comment on the photograph of the segregated class or on what measures were to be put in place at universities.

But a senior Taliban official told Reuters that such dividers were “completely acceptable”, and that Afghanistan had “limited resources and manpower, so for now it is best to have the same teacher teaching both sides of a class.”