Afghan girls, women desperate to get back to class

17-year-old Sahar looks round her old, empty classroom.

The Afghan teenager dreams of becoming an engineer, but, for now at least, has to learn at home.

Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghan girls and young women, she has not been allowed to return to her studies since the Taliban seized power in mid-August.

The hardline group has allowed only boys and younger girls back to class.

"When I see my younger sister and brother who go to school I feel very sad for myself, that I can't study. They, for example, come home and do their homework, talk about their classmates and their studies. But I feel sad inside that I can't go to school myself."

Across town, Hawa's dreams are also on hold.

The university student has not been able to return to her studies of Russian literature.

Most public universities are not functioning at all, or only partially.

On top of this, weeks after taking power the Taliban closed the women's ministry, replacing it with a ministry for virtue and vice.

Hawa says she has no hope for the future.

"When the women's ministry was shut down, when we went to protest they (the Taliban) told us: who are you? Your only role is to cook, get married and sit at home, you don't need to work anymore."

When Taliban Islamists were in power from 1996-2001, girls were not allowed to attend school and women were banned from work and education.

Officials have tried to assure Afghans and foreign donors that people's rights will be honoured this time round.

They've promised to allow girls to go to school and women to study and work once details on how to do so in accordance with Islamic law are worked out.

They have also blamed the international community for cutting off aid, making it harder to fund the reopening of schools and universities for all.

But this is of little solace to Sahar who is stuck at home frustrated and worried about what future lies ahead.

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