University classes resume in Afghanistan with a 'curtain of separation'

Taliban have promised a more "inclusive" government that represents Afghanistan's complex ethnic makeup, but women's condition is unlikely to change. They have issued diktat saying women attending universities must wear an abaya robe and niqab.
Students at a university in Afghanistan are seen studying separated by a curtain on Monday.(Twitter/@AamajN)
Students at a university in Afghanistan are seen studying separated by a curtain on Monday.(Twitter/@AamajN)
Published on Sep 06, 2021 04:30 PM IST
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By hindustantimes.com | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A local news agency in Afghanistan reported on Monday that university classes started in the country but with a "curtain of separation". A photo posted on Twitter by Aamaj News shows male and female students sitting in a class room with curtains between them.

This is a result of education policy outline given by the Taliban, now in power in Afghanistan, through their diktats. Taliban have said in many interviews that they have no issue with women education "but they should study with a hijab".

In a lengthy order issued on Saturday, the Taliban ordered women attending private Afghan universities to wear an abaya robe and niqab covering most of the face. They also said that classes must be segregated by sex - or at least divided by a curtain.

The Taliban diktat said that female students should only be taught by other women, but if that was not possible then "old men" of good character could fill in.

Women must also end their lesson five minutes earlier than men to stop them from mingling outside, the Taliban order further said.

For students, the curtains have become a barrier. "Putting up curtains is not acceptable," Anjila, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University who returned to find her classroom partitioned, told news agency Reuters by telephone.

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

The decree, said Taliban, applies to private colleges and universities, which have mushroomed since their first rule ended in 2001.

During that period, girls and women were mostly excluded from education because of rules regarding same-sex classrooms and the insistence they had to be accompanied by a male relative whenever they left the house.

A journalism professor at Herat University in the west of the country told Reuters he decided to split his one-hour class into two halves, first teaching females and then males.

Of 120 students enrolled for his course, less than a quarter showed up at school on Monday.

The Taliban have assured of a moderate and inclusive government this time and have issued statements in a bid to build confidence. But on the ground, situation hasn't changed much.

On Saturday, a pregnant Afghan policewoman Banu Nigara was shot dead by Taliban fighters in front of her husband and children at her home in Firozkoh, local media reported. “Nigara a police officer was shot dead infront of her kids and husband last night at 10PM in Ghor province. Nigara was 6 months pregnant, she was shot dead by the Taliban,” leading Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary tweeted on Sunday citing her family members.

The Taliban have, however, denied they were involved in the killing of Nigara.

Colleges and higher education institutions opened in Afghanistan on Monday after remaining closed for months, first due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and later because of chaos in the war-torn country.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021