Curtains separate male and female Afghan students as new term begins under Taliban rule

A flimsy gray curtain divides a university classroom in Kabul in two — on one side sit the male students, on the other the female students, wearing hijabs.

It’s a glimpse into what education could look like in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, as some students returned to classrooms for the start of the new school semester this week.

The last time the Taliban were in power, from 1996 to 2001, women and girls were banned from education and work. After the militants were removed in 2001, women were free to go to university and jobs.

Now the Taliban are back. While their current leadership has insisted women will play a prominent role in society and that their regime will be “inclusive,” doubts remain over whether this rhetoric will match reality.

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