Afghan students have started returning to university for the first time since the Taliban’s takeover and in some cases, female students have been divided from their male classmates by curtains or boards down the middle of the classroom.
According to Reuters, teachers and students at universities in Afghanistan’s largest cities including Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat stated that female students were being segregated in class, taught separately, or restricted to certain parts of the campus.
While on a call with Reuters, Anjila, a 21-year-old student at Kabul University said, “Putting up curtains is not acceptable. I really felt terrible when I entered the class. We are gradually going back to 20 years ago.”
“Female students sat separately from males. But classrooms were not physically divided”, she added.
A document outlining guidelines for resuming class has been circulating which lists measures such as the mandatory wearing of hijabs and separate entrances for female students. However, it was unclear if the document represented official Taliban policy.
A senior Taliban official told the agency that classroom dividers were “completely acceptable”, and that given Afghanistan’s “limited resources and manpower” it was best to “have the same teacher teaching both sides of a class”.
The photographs were shared by Avicenna University in Kabul and widely circulated on social media, prompting people to ask if women would be given their rights to education and work under Islam.
When the Taliban last ruled from 1996-2001, the group banned girls from school and women from university and work.