Promising not to bar women from education in their control over Afghanistan this time, the Taliban in a Sunday, August 29 meeting, put forward one condition—different genders shall not study in the same room.

“The people of Afghanistan will continue their higher education in the light of sharia law in safety without being in a mixed male and female environment,” said Taliban’s acting minister for higher education Abdul Baqi Haqqani, according to The Independent.

Following its swift conquest of Afghanistan, the Taliban had not formally announced its new governance framework, which had been promised to abide by Islamic sharia laws and could be different from the last time they ruled the country. It is yet unclear how that will imply or look in practice.

In the 1990s, women under the Taliban’s power were forbidden from school, work, and basic medical treatments. They must not be allowed outside unless with a male relative beside them. 

Violations of their harsh gender policies might result in the women in public flogging and even death by stoning. 

According to Mr. Haqqani, the female students will not be taught by male teachers in this new system.

Segregation would apply to students in primary and secondary schools, as is already the case in some parts of Afghanistan’s very traditional society.

The syllabus would also have to be modified, as Haqqani said to “create a reasonable and Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values and, on the other hand, be able to compete with other countries.”

According to AFP, skepticism and low trust in the Taliban’s promises remain. The outlet noted that the Sunday event, which senior Taliban officials joined, was empty of female participants.

“The Taliban’s ministry of higher education consulted only male teachers and students on resuming the function of universities,” said a female lecturer who worked at a city university under the former Afghan government. 

She said the absence of women’s voices in their decision-making could demonstrate “a gap between the Taliban’s commitments and actions.”

Women and girls have already been barred from attending school or leaving their homes without male escorts in some Taliban-controlled areas, per The Guardian.

Many critics have condemned the ban of co-education, arguing that it would deny girls access to higher education when major colleges in the country cannot afford to offer distinct programs when resources are scarce.

Over the last two decades, university admission rates have increased, especially among women who have studied alongside men and attended seminars taught by male academics.

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