Women studying at private Afghan universities must wear an abaya robe and a niqab that covers most of the face, the Taliban have ordered, and classes must be segregated by gender — or at least separated by a curtain.
In a lengthy document issued by the Taliban education authority, they also ordered that female students should only be taught by other women, but if that was not possible, “old men” of good character could fill it in.
The decree applies to private colleges and universities, which have grown explosively since the first Taliban rule ended in 2001.
During that period, girls and women were usually excluded from education because of rules regarding same-sex classrooms and the insistence that they should be accompanied by a male relative when they left the house.
In the new regulations issued late Saturday, there was no order for women to wear the full-covering burqa, but the niqab still covers most of the face, leaving only the eyes visible.
In recent years, burqas and niqabs have largely disappeared from the streets of Kabul, but are more commonly seen in smaller towns and villages.
The decree comes as private universities prepare to open Monday.
“Universities are required to recruit female teachers for female students based on their facilities,” the decree said, adding that men and women must use separate entrances and exits.
If it is not possible to hire female teachers, colleges should “try to hire old male teachers who are in good standing for conduct”.
While women now have to study separately, they also have to finish their class five minutes earlier than men to avoid mixing outside.
They must then remain in waiting rooms until their male colleagues have left the building, according to the decree issued by the Taliban’s higher education ministry.
“Practically it’s a difficult plan – we don’t have enough female instructors or classes to separate the girls,” said a college professor, who asked not to be named.
“But the fact that they let girls go to schools and universities is a big positive step,” he told AFP.
Afghanistan’s new rulers have pledged to be more lenient than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict—first the Soviet invasion of 1979, then a bloody civil war.
They have promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup – although women are unlikely to be at the top.
In the past 20 years, since the Taliban last came to power, university admission rates have risen dramatically, especially among women.
Before the Taliban returned in a lightning-fast military campaign and moved into the capital, Kabul last month, women studied alongside men and attended seminars with male professors.
But a spate of deadly attacks on education centers in recent years has sparked panic.
The Taliban denied being behind the attacks, some of which were claimed by the local branch of the Islamic State group.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)