When Narges and her younger sisters were finally allowed to return to school last month, they braced for a new world outside their family’s gate.

Following their mother’s lead, each layered on a black dress, black abaya, headscarf and niqab, as well as a face mask. Minutes later, overcome by anxiety, Narges’ sister Hadiya, 16, fainted even before leaving the house. When Hadiya finally stepped outside and saw a Talib for the first time, tears poured down her face.

Still, the girls consider themselves lucky. In Mazar-e-Sharif, a commercial hub in Afghanistan’s north, the Taliban have allowed middle- and high school-age girls back into the classrooms, even as in the rest of the country most have been forced to stay home.