Male students have trickled back to their classes after universities reopened in Afghanistan following a winter break, but women remain barred by the ruling Taliban.
The university ban is one of several restrictions imposed on women since the Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021 and has sparked global outrage.
“It’s heartbreaking to see boys going to the university while we have to stay at home,” said Rahela, 22, from the central province of Ghor.
“This is gender discrimination against girls because Islam allows us to pursue higher education. Nobody should stop us from learning.”
The Taliban government imposed the ban accusing female students of ignoring a strict dress code and a requirement to be accompanied by a male relative to and from campus.
Most universities had already introduced gender-segregated entrances and classrooms, as well as allowing women to be taught only by female professors or old men.
“It’s painful to see that thousands of girls are deprived of education today,” Mohammad Haseeb Habibzadah, a student of computer science at Herat University, told AFP news agency.
“We are trying to address this issue by talking to lecturers and other students so that there can be a way where boys and girls could study and progress together.”
Ejatullah Nejati, an engineering student at Kabul University, Afghanistan’s largest, said it was a fundamental right of women to study.
“Even if they attend classes on separate days, it’s not a problem. They have a right to education and that right should be given to them,” Nejati said as he entered the university campus.