Women attending private Afghan universities must wear an abaya robe and niqab covering most of the face, the Taliban have ordered, and classes must be segregated by sex — or a minimum of divided by a curtain.
In a lengthy document issued by the Taliban’s education authority, they also ordered that female students should only be taught by other women, but if that wasn’t possible then “old men” of excellent character could fill in.
The decree applies to non-public colleges and universities, which have mushroomed since the Taliban’s first rule led to 2001.
During that period, girls and ladies were mostly excluded from education due to rules regarding same-sex classrooms and therefore the insistence that they had to be amid a blood brother whenever they left the house.
There was no order for ladies to wear the all-enveloping burqa within the new regulations issued late on Saturday, but the niqab effectively covers most of the face anyway, leaving just the eyes exposed.
In recent years, burqas and niqabs have largely vanished from the streets of Kabul, but are seen more frequently in smaller cities and towns.
The decree comes as private universities prepare to open on Monday.
“Universities are required to recruit female teachers for female students supported their facilities,” the decree said, adding that men and ladies should use separate entrances and exits.
If it’s impossible to rent women teachers, then colleges “should attempt to hire old men teachers who have an honest record of behaviour”.
While women now need to study separately, they need to also end their lesson five minutes before men to prevent them from mingling outside.
They must then stay in waiting rooms until their male counterparts have left the building, consistent with the decree issued by the Taliban education ministry.
“Practically, it’s a difficult plan — we do not have enough female instructors or classes to segregate the women ,” said a university professor, who asked to not be named.
“But the very fact that they’re allowing girls to travel to colleges and universities may be a big positive step,” he told AFP.
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, then a bloody war .
They have promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup — though women are unlikely to be included at the highest levels.
Over the past 20 years, since the Taliban were last in power, university admission rates have risen dramatically, particularly among women.
Before the Taliban returned during a lightning campaign , entering the capital Kabul last month, women studied alongside men and attended seminars with male professors.
But a spate of deadly attacks on education centres in recent years sparked panic.
The Taliban denied being behind the attacks, a number of which were claimed by the local chapter of the militant Islamic State group.