Kabul University, one of Afghanistan’s most revered and oldest institutions of higher education, was reopened Saturday, six months after the Taliban took over. Women and men were allowed to attend, but they were now separated. The Islamic dress for women was required.
The university gate was crowded with hundreds of female students wearing hijab (the veil worn by Muslim women) and lining up. The students were eager to return to classes that were cut short by the Taliban’s August invasion. The campus had three entrances. Taliban guarded them. The university used to be co-educational. Women and men took classes together.
Many students stated that they were unsure what to expect on Saturday, but were surprised to find they could continue their regular coursework and move up in their chosen areas of study. The university follows the U.S. liberal art model.
“After much delay all universities and educational institutes started today February 26th,” Ahmad Taqqi, a Taliban spokesperson for the Higher Education Ministry, said in a video clip that was posted to AP. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will continue to provide education.”
According to returning students, the music department was the only discipline that was canceled for males and women. Further AP requests for comment were not answered by the Taliban.
Bahija Aman (21), a third-year anthropology major, stated that there have not been any changes to the syllabus. “The instructors in my classes are the same.”
She added, “I am glad they have finally allowed us to return to university.”
Aman has been spending the past six months at her home. Aman’s text books are neatly organized on her desk. This is where she spends most of her time studying. She was a top student and wanted to maintain her rank at universities when they reopened.
She plans to complete her studies and then earn a doctorate in Afghanistan.
The much-anticipated open house was attended once more than 22,000 students.
Taliban refused to allow media access to the premises. This week, the Taliban posted a statement on their official Facebook page stating that students would be returning to class Saturday and that they would follow religious and cultural values.
Kabul University, like most public universities, had been closed immediately following the Taliban takeover. International concern over whether women will be allowed to return home without restriction has been a major concern. Many were concerned that the Taliban might ban females, as was the case during its previous rule between 1996 and 2001.
Taliban claim they aren’t opposed to education for women, but insist that classes be segregated and based upon Islamic principles as they know them. In the provinces Lagham and Nangarhar, Kandahar and Kandahar, some public universities were reopened earlier in the month.
Officials from the Taliban have stated that female students should only be taught by female instructors. However, this was not a government policy. Students who returned to school said that their instructors were both female and male, which highlights the difficulties in recruiting new instructors.
Although there is no formal ban on girls in grade 7 and above, they have been effectively barred from most schools across the country since the Taliban took over six months ago. Taliban officials have stated that girls will soon be able return to school in March.
International community is pressing for education access. The Taliban blame delays on a lack of space, especially in urban areas, to allow segregated schooling.
Instructors explained the new restrictions to Saturday morning’s female students. They had to cover their heads with an Islamic veil and not be allowed to bring smartphones into the university. The courses are for male students in the afternoon.
However, little else seems to have changed. Kabul University published a list on its Facebook page earlier this month of open positions, including those in the media and communications departments, literature, political science, and public policy.
Aman considers the restrictions a minor concession. “I will always follow the law and I am loyal to it. I do hope that there will not be any more changes.