Afghan universities reopen with strict rules for female students

Women required to attend separate classes and follow dress code at facilities in Kandahar and Helmand as they restart classes for first time since Taliban takeover

Students at Kandahar University said they were not optimistic about the future of women’s education in the country. Photograph: Rukhshana Media

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Public universities in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan have reopened after being closed for nearly nine months, with some female students joining classes.

Despite calls from education activists and students, universities and high schools across Afghanistan stayed shut after their usual summer break as the Taliban came to power. High schools have since reopened, but only for boys.

The media were refused permission by the Taliban authorities to cover the universities’ opening ceremonies, but students in Kandahar yesterday said they were not optimistic about the future under the restrictions imposed on women since the Taliban takeover.

Khalida Rashed, an economics student, said there was concern about the low numbers of female students. “I am happy about the reopening of the university, but women are still facing limitations. The question is that even after girls come to university to continue their education in the current situation, will the Taliban allow them to work after graduation?” she said, urging fellow Afghans, men and women, to support women in seeking their rights.

On Sunday, the Taliban announced that classes will restart at public universities without any reference to women attending classes. But even as Kandahar and Helmand opened this week, other universities in the southern provinces of Zabul and Uruzgan remained shut.