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Young women study at a Kabul university in 2010Image: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Afghanistan universities reopen with women attending

February 2, 2022

The Taliban have said women can attend classes, but only if separated from men and if the curriculum includes "Islamic principles." Allowing women's education has been a key point in negotiations over international aid.


Public universities in several Afghan provinces reopened on Wednesday for the first time since the the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The hard-line Islamist group had closed most secondary schools for girls and all public universities. The Taliban government had reopened secondary schools for boys only in most parts of the country.

Public universities in Laghman, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Nimroz, Farah and Helmand provinces opened Wednesday, officials said. Higher education institutions in other regions, including Kabul, are due to reopen on February 26. 

A correspondent for AFP news agency reported seeing a small group of fully veiled women entering Laghman University in the east of the country. There weren't many students arriving, and Taliban fighters guarded the entrance with a large machine gun. 

In the city of Jalalabad, in the eastern Nangarhar province, female students were seen entering the city's public university by using a separate door, according to Reuters news agency. 

The Taliban had previously said they would allow women to attend universities, but require that classes be segregated and for the curriculum to be based on Islamic principles.

"We were told that the classes will be held according to the Shariah law," a 23-year-old mathematics student told AFP. 

Women's rights a key issue

Since taking over Afghanistan in August, the Taliban have not banned women's education outright. However, there have been doubts that the group would allow women to receive higher education, as other restrictions have been imposed.

Taliban law means 'no justice, no security' for women

These include banning women from appearing in TV and movies, removing women from the workforce, and dissolving the Women's Affairs Ministry. 

In October, Human Rights Watch reported that the Taliban effectively prohibited girls from receiving education higher than primary school by keeping most secondary schools for teenage girls closed.

When the Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the group barred women and girls from getting an education and practically removed women from serving a role in society. 

As the Taliban seek international recognition of their government and an injection of humanitarian aid, countries around the world have demanded that the group allow for the education of women and girls as a precondition. A Taliban delegation held talks with Western officials in Norway last week and were pressed on improving women's rights. 

The UN mission to Afghanistan on Twitter praised the inclusion of female students, saying it is "crucial that every young person has equal access to education."

wmr/msh  (AFP, Reuters) 

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