Afghan universities reopen, but few women return

Afghan universities reopen, but few women return

KABUL- Agence France-Presse
Afghan universities reopen, but few women return

Afghanistan’s main universities have reopened six months after the Taliban returned to power, but only a trickle of women went back to now-segregated classes.

The Taliban insist they will allow girls and women to be educated this time around, but only in segregated classes and according to an Islamic curriculum.

On Feb. 26 Kabul University, the oldest and biggest with a student body of around 25,000 last year, re-opened without fanfare, and few students in attendance.

“I am happy that the university resumed... we want to continue our studies,” said an English major who asked to be identified only as Basira.

But she said there were “some difficulties” -- including students being scolded by Taliban guards for bringing their mobile phones to class.

“They did not behave well with us... they were rude,” she said.  Another English student, Maryam, said only seven women attended her class.   

“Before we were 56 students, boys and girls,” she said.

There was also a shortage of lecturers, she said, adding: “Maybe because some have left the country.”    

A similar picture emerged from campuses across the country, although no students returned to class at Panjshir University, in the heartland of a nascent resistance to the Taliban’s rule.

“I do not know if they will come tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or not,” said Professor Noor-ur-Rehman Afzali.    Some students said they thought many stayed away out of fear of the new authorities, or because they could not afford the fees. 

The Taliban have said previously that women students must wear a black abaya over their bodies and hijab on their heads, but stopped short of insisting on the all-covering burqa that was compulsory during their previous rule.

Several students, however, appeared dressed no differently on Feb. 26  than they would have before the Taliban takeover, with a simple shawl covering their heads.  

“I have never worn any hijab before... it’s new for me,” said Sohaila Rostami, a biology student in her last semester at Bamiyam University.

“I used to wear jeans and other normal clothes. It will be difficult for me to observe hijab,” she said.