• First Day in School: Deserted classes, fear psychosis among students

    First Day in School: Deserted classes, fear psychosis among students

    Kabul: Schools and universities reopened in Afghanistan yesterday and draped a deserted look as not a single student appeared for their first class. With Taliban claiming to ‘soften’ their rule this time, locals, especially students are apprehensive of the claims made by the hardline Islamist group.

    The Taliban have promised a softer rule than during their first stint in power from 1996-2001, when women's freedoms in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed and they were banned from higher education.

    This time, the hardline group have said women will be allowed to go to private universities under the new regime, but they face tough restrictions on their clothing and movement.

    Women can only attend class if they wear an abaya -- a flowing robe -- and a niqab -- a face veil with a small window to see through -- and are separated from men, the Taliban said.

    "Our students don't accept this and we will have to close the university," said Noor Ali Rahmani, the director of Gharjistan University in Kabul, on an almost empty campus on Monday.

    "Our students wear the hijab, not the niqab," he added, referring to a headscarf.

    The Taliban issued a lengthy decree yesterday outlining steps to for classroom decorum, which also ruled that men and women should be segregated – or at least divided by a curtain if there are 15 students or less.

    Private schools and universities that have mushroomed since the Taliban’s first rule ended, will have only women teachers for women or “old men with good character”, and use a women-only entrance.

    They must also end their lessons five minutes earlier than men to stop them from mingling outside.

    So far, the Taliban has said nothing about public universities.