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Saturday 23rd October 2021 / 17 Rabiulawal 1443

Taliban makes face-covering niqab compulsory for university girls

The decree comes as private universities prepare to open on Monday. (Source: AFP)

The decree comes as private universities prepare to open on Monday. (Source: AFP)

KABUL (AFP): The Taliban announced that women attending private Afghan universities must wear an abaya robe and niqab covering most of the face and classes must be segregated by sex — or at least divided by a curtain.

According to a document issued by the Taliban’s education authority, the Taliban ordered 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.

The decree comes as private universities prepare to open on Monday. “Universities are required to recruit female teachers for female students based on their facilities,” the decree said, adding that men and women should use separate entrances and exits.

If it is not possible to hire women teachers, then colleges “should try to hire old men teachers who have a good record of behaviour”.

While women now have to study separately, they must also end their lesson five minutes earlier than men to stop them from mingling outside. “Women must then stay in waiting rooms until their male counterparts have left the building”, the decree stated.

The order applies to private colleges and universities, which have mushroomed since the Taliban’s first rule ended in 2001.  There was no order for women to wear the all-enveloping burqa in the new regulations issued late on Saturday, but the niqab effectively covers most of the face anyway.

“Practically, it is a difficult plan — we don’t have enough female instructors or classes to segregate the girls,” a university professor told an international news agency. “But the fact that they are allowing girls to go to schools and universities is a big positive step,” he added.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have pledged to be more accommodating than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict — first the Soviet invasion of 1979, and then a bloody civil war.

Over the past 20 years, since the Taliban were last in power, university admission rates have risen dramatically, particularly among women.

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