Taliban minister says women can study in gender-segregated university classrooms

The Taliban’s new minister of higher education said women in Afghanistan will be allowed to study in gender-segregated university classrooms.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani outlined the government’s plans for classrooms at a news conference on Sunday, announcing that Afghanistan "will not allow boys and girls to study together" and "will not allow co-education," according to The Associated Press.

Haqqani also revealed that women will be subject to a strict dress code that includes hijabs, according to the AP. He did not, however, specify if that requirement includes mandatory headscarves or face coverings.

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The subjects taught in Afghanistan’s education system will also be reviewed, according to Haqqani. He did not offer additional details but reportedly did say that he wants to see graduates who move on from Afghan universities to be competitive with college graduates in the region and worldwide.

Haqqani said the Taliban are not looking to go back 20 years, saying, “We will start building on what exists today.”

The new strict measures for female university students come days after the Taliban introduced their interim Afghan government, which includes a number of hard-line leaders from the 1990s but no women.

Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi last week said that “it’s not necessary that women be in the Cabinet,” according to the AP, contending that Afghan females should give birth and raise children.

The group has said it will respect women’s rights under Islamic rule, but many are still concerned about what exactly that type of leadership and government will look like.

A Taliban spokesman told NBC News last month that women will have “all the rights that Islam promises,” adding that “they can be doctors, teachers, be educated and can work to benefit society.”

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“They are our sisters, we must show them respect. They should not be frightened. The Taliban are humans and from this country. They fought for our country. Women should be proud of us, not scared,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid added.

Haqqani last month signaled that women would be allowed to study at universities but not in mixed classes.

Roughly 50 Afghan women held a protest in the city of Herat earlier this month to demand work opportunities and education for their daughters under the new Taliban leadership.

Before the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-August amid the withdrawal of U.S troops from the country, universities were co-ed and a dress code was not enforced, the AP noted.

The majority of female students at universities, however, chose to wear headscarves to abide by tradition.