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Taliban allows women in universities but with gender-separated classes

Kabul: Women in Afghanistan can continue to study at universities, including at the postgraduate level, but classes will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress is mandatory, the higher education minister in the new Taliban government said on Sunday.

The minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out the new policies at a news conference several days after the new rulers of Afghanistan formed an all-male government.

The world is watching closely to see to what extent the Taliban might act differently from when they first came to power in the late 1990s. During that era, girls and women were denied education, and excluded from public life.

The Taliban have suggested that they have changed, including their attitude towards women. However, he has used violence against women protesters demanding equal rights in recent days.

Haqqani said the Taliban did not want to turn the clock back 20 years. “We will start building on what exists today,” he said.

However, university girl students will face sanctions under the Taliban, including a mandatory dress code. Haqqani said the hijab would be mandatory but did not specify whether it meant a mandatory headscarf or a mandatory face covering.

He said gender segregation would also be implemented. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said. “We will not allow co-education.” Haqqani said subjects being taught in universities would also be reviewed, but did not elaborate. The Taliban, who subscribe to a rigid interpretation of Islam, have banned music and the arts during their last time in power.

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