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Afghanistan: Girls Poisoned for Attending School

On June 3, 2012, about 65 girls were rushed to hospital [fa] after being poisoned at their school in the northeastern Afghan province of Takhar. The incident was the latest in a series of attacks against schools for girls in the province. On May 29, some 160 girls ended up in hospitals after a gas attack at their school. Earlier this spring, more than 270 girls were poisoned in anti-school attacks in two different locations. Overall, hundreds of girls throughout the country suffered in similar attacks last year.

Officials have blamed the Taliban for these incidents. Between 1996 and 2001, when the fundamentalist movement controlled most of the country, females were banned from going to school. Although millions of girls have enrolled in school since the ousting of the Taliban, the movement's fighters and their sympathizers continue punishing female students for seeking education.

Young schoolgirls lie unconscious on the lawn of a hospital in the capital city of the northern Takhar province after being poisoned at their school. Image by Pajhwok Afghan News, copyright Demotix (18/04/2012)

Because females continue facing abuse and violent attacks for seeking education, it takes a lot of bravery to be a schoolgirl in Afghanistan. Image by Teresa Nabais, copyright Demotix (03/07/2009)

The Taliban has denied its involvement in the anti-school attacks. Yet, they can hardly convince anybody.

Ericka M. Johnson, a blogger from the United States, writes:

Attacking girl’s schools and students has become a common tactic for the Taliban.  It’s not enough for them to be treated as property. They must also punish [girls] for wanting to learn. They deny involvement in these attacks, but their own history — in which many girls were not even allowed to go to school during Taliban rule from 1996-2001 — suggests that educated women go against the Taliban’s interests.

Responding to Erica, another American blogger, Katherine Lorraine, explains:

Educating women is the quickest and easiest way for true equality among the sexes – so naturally the all-boys’ club of the Taliban wants nothing more than to hold women down and force them to live at the lowest rungs of society.

Judy Molland, an award winning writer, announces:

Anyone who can hate children enough to poison them has clearly lost touch with his own humanity. For the sake of these girls, the Afghan government must make the safety of its students a priority.

Afghan blogger Hussain Ibrahimi writes [fa]:

 حال دشمنان افغانستان از ابزار دیگری برای پیروزی شان در جنگ و مخالفت با دولت افغانستان استفاده می کنند و این ابزار چیزی نیست جز مسموم کردن شاگردان مدرسه ها و بسته شدن این نهادهای تعلیمی و آموزشی در ولایت های مختلف افغانستان که نگرانی ها را روز به روز افزایش می دهد و این خود می تواند ضربه بزرگ باشد برای دست آوردهای ده ساله افغانستان که باز شدن نهادی های تعلیمی و آموزشی بعد از سرنگونی رژیم طالبان خود یکی از بزرگترین دستآوردهای این دهه اخیر است.

The enemies of Afghanistan are now resorting to a new tactic in their war against the government [of the country]. This tactic consists of poisoning schoolgirls, aiming to close down educational institutions in different provinces… This can seriously compromise a decade of achievements such as the opening of new schools after the fall of the Taliban regime

For some people, reports of anti-school attacks in Afghanistan are a reason to reconsider their attitude towards education. Dineeta Kubhar tweets:

@WordsOfDineeta: Taliban poisoning the water females drink at school in Afghanistan to stop them from an education.. And I'm complaining about studying smh.

Netizens fear that after the NATO-led foreign troops pull out of the country in 2014, the Taliban and other fundamentalists will become even more tenacious in scaring girls off education.

Chloe Logan, a Yahoo News Contributor, writes:

As these attacks continue while NATO forces are still in Afghanistan, we wonder if girls will remain brave enough to continue their education once that protection is gone. We know that their futures depend on the education they lack.

Another blogger, Jan, speculates:

Sadly, once the last of the U.S. military presence is “officially” removed from Afghanistan, you know, and I know, and we all know, what will happen to any Afghani girl who dares to go to school, and to any Afghani female who wants to teach, or nurse in a hospital, or work as a secretary, or be a clerk in a grocery store, or try out for an Olympic running team, or play badminton or chess, or learn how to read and write…

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