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More Afghan Girls Poisoned For Going To School

More Afghan Girls Poisoned For Going To School

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health confirmed what has until now been just a disturbing supposition: the cases of mass sickness at girls’ schools across Afghanistan over the past two years were indeed caused by poison gas.  There have been no fatalities, and no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the MPH’s spokesman, Dr. Kargar Norughli, said that his ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) had been testing the blood from victims of the mass attacks, and discovered toxic compounds.

Because the origin of the attacks is unclear, one reaction has been to dismiss the attacks as random, rather than targeted assaults on girls who are actively seeking an education.  But the fact that all of the attacks have been on girls’ schools or mixed schools during hours set aside for girls makes it clear that these are gendered attacks.

The poisonings have happened mostly in areas with large Pashtun populations, where opposition to girls’ education is strong.  This opposition manifests itself in various and often violent ways; girls’ schools are burned down, teachers are attacked and beheaded, and acid is sprayed in girls’ faces as they walk to school.  These poison gas attacks seem simply to be the latest in a systematic campaign to intimidate girls from attending school.

There is very little doubt among the schools’ teachers and students as to the reasons for the attacks.  “There are some people who are always intimidating girls from going to school,” Abida Sadiri, a religion teacher, told the NYT.  She was also one of the people who became sick following the acid attacks.

Some students, according to the NYT, stayed home after the attacks, but others ventured out, determined not to let the violence deter them.  “School builds our future,” said one fifteen-year-old. “I was worried my family wouldn’t let us come back, but my father said we should. Whatever they do to us, we are going to keep coming.”

Until recently, Afghan girls were completely unable to attend school.  There are now more than a million Afghan girls attending schools throughout the country.  For the sake of these girls, the Afghan government needs to make their safety a priority – they have the right to access their education without fear.

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Photo from DefenseLink.mil.

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197 comments

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8:15PM PDT on Oct 18, 2010

This is a very unfortunate state of affairs, but let's give it up for the brave girls that are staying in school. If knowledge truly is power, it is hopefully only a matter of time until they can change the way their society treats them.

12:19AM PDT on Oct 7, 2010

@Monique: I think you need to read some previous posts to realise it has nothing to do with Islam but Afghan culture.

Logically speaking if one looks at other than the Muslim lands you'll find sexist attitudes elsewhere implying it's not an Islamic root

2:42PM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

Tja, The Islam You can do nothing about it. Man against woman. Grazy people.

4:29AM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

@Jewel: Indeed it is time for change. "Behind every great man is a greater woman."

History needs to be rewritten to accredit female accomplishments: there are far more mathematical and scientific achievements than what they are credited for.

6:13PM PDT on Oct 4, 2010

Sakib you are right. So many women in the worlds history made huge contributions but were not allowed to take any credit. Women writers and artist had to use a male name when showing their work. I read a great book about amer revolution from Britain. The guys get all the credit "paul revere and all" but read "Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts. If these men did not have the women behind them doing the work they did we would all have a British accent right now. Kudos to women finally getting some recognition but goes to show you the difference between men and women. Women will do what has to be done but males usually like to know that everyone knows that they did something good. Just from my experience of men in my life, the world around me and my reading of history. It is about time for a change.

4:32PM PDT on Oct 4, 2010

"Read the page you linked. It said first choice, stay home, pray, and have lots of babies. Second choice, work at a girl job like nursing, tailoring, teaching, but with those restrictions. Third choice, online Islamic University to teach her about Islam (not science, math, history, etc).

The quoted verses mainly said to stay home and obey her husband. Either you didn't read the page you linked or you mis-represented it (taqiyya?)."

Again you misunderstand the verses: the verses indicate a primary responsibility of women aka internal affairs aka looking after the house. The man's primary responsibility is getting an income. That does NOT mean men can't cook and clean and women can't go out and work. If you read the work of Akram Nadawi at Oxford he proves that women have a far greater role in todays scientific and mathematical knowledge than history credits. Not to mention Maryam al-astrolabi who made astrolabes and the founder of University of Karaouine who which initially was multi disciplinary.

4:28PM PDT on Oct 4, 2010

@Monica R: Actually the Islamic law has NEVER been applied to Afghanistan. How can a bunch of emotionless bandits understand Islam?

"Under shari'a, no way could a woman doctor treat men. Women, if they leave the house, have to be escorted by a man, and any job they do must be among women, no mixed workplaces"

Actually if you observe the biography of the Muhammad, the women who weren't his wives such as Um Habibah, Rumaysah bint Milhan and others spoke to Muhammad without veils etc.
Therefore the added veiling and stopping women from being educated by men and women is a new innovation and not part of the religion. No offence but please check your history.

11:13AM PDT on Oct 4, 2010

Obeying your husband means obeying somebody with less common sense, less empathy, more selfishness and brutality than you. The whole family suffers from having a domestic tyrant. Boys grow up thinking this is the way men should behave, so the oppression goes on generation after generation until feminists put an end to it. I hope more Afghan women organize around their rights as human beings, but prepare for more violence as men try to maintain a master/slave relationship.

11:08AM PDT on Oct 4, 2010

What I don't get is why misogyny, a pathological hatred of girls and women isn't regarded as a serious mental illness and treated. Atrocious, isn't it? Denying the humanity of human beings.

9:45PM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

@Adrianna Terrell
"That's so weird considering the hadith that instruct women to be educated"

Read the page you linked. It said first choice, stay home, pray, and have lots of babies. Second choice, work at a girl job like nursing, tailoring, teaching, but with those restrictions. Third choice, online Islamic University to teach her about Islam (not science, math, history, etc).

The quoted verses mainly said to stay home and obey her husband. Either you didn't read the page you linked or you mis-represented it (taqiyya?).


@Fa'izah J A
Well said! The men would benefit economically if women were educated. Thanks for sharing the research you found.


@Gloria Hafner
"Guess they'd rather roll around in pain than have a woman operate on them."

Under shari'a, no way could a woman doctor treat men. Women, if they leave the house, have to be escorted by a man, and any job they do must be among women, no mixed workplaces.

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