Afghanistan schoolgirls poisoning: The aftermath

Amidst the rugged terrain, a nation defined by its striking landscapes and a turbulent history, the poisoning of Afghanistan schoolgirls unfolded, sending shock waves through the world.

This tragic incident isn’t just a sad story on its own. It also shows us the difficulties Afghan women face when they want to go to school and make their lives better.

Afghanistan, located in the heart of Central Asia, has a diverse landscape, including tall mountains, dry deserts, and fertile valleys with winding rivers. While these landscapes are incredibly beautiful, they’ve always made it hard to build schools and provide education for everyone.

For Afghan girls who want to learn, the journey has been tough. They’ve had to overcome not only tough geography but also complex cultural and political challenges.

80 schoolgirls poisoned in Afghanistan

In northern Afghanistan, around 80 girls were poisoned in two separate alarming incidents at their primary schools, requiring hospitalization.

These incidents happened in the Sangcharak district. In one school called Naswan-e-Kabod Aab, 60 students got sick, and in another one called Naswan-e-Faizabad, 17 girls got sick.

In Afghanistan, girls can only go to school until the sixth grade, and are not allowed to receive higher education.

It’s deeply concerning because many girls and young women are facing tough times ever since a group called the Taliban took control of the area. Women in Afghanistan can’t do many jobs or be in public places like boys can.

The situation is even more alarming because these two nearby schools were targeted consecutively.

Across the border in Iran, there have been some strange incidents in girls’ schools too.  They started happening around November last year, and lots of students said they felt sick because of bad fumes, like poisonous air.

In March 2023, some experts from the United Nations said that these strange attacks, like the one in Afghanistan, have happened in 91 schools in 20 different parts of Iran.

Who's behind this poisoning attempt?

Some believe it was done to make the Taliban look bad, while others think the Taliban did it to frighten the students.

People in the area believe that a group of people who don’t understand or accept the importance of women might be responsible for this terrible act.

In the past, the Taliban has burned schools and harmed schoolgirls, and sadly, this group still carries out such crimes.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has asked the Taliban to look into these incidents and punish those responsible.

UNICEF believes that schools should be safe places where children can learn without being afraid, and women should be able to work without risking their lives.

According to a report from the United Nations, the Taliban was linked to 46 attacks on schools and people working in education in 2021.

They even used 24 schools for military purposes. It’s important to note that all the students who were poisoned are from a group called the Hazaras. The Hazaras are mainly Shia people and live mostly in the central parts of Afghanistan.

They have faced discrimination and persecution throughout history.

Why are girls not allowed to go to school in Afghanistan?

Since the changes that happened in Afghanistan in 2021, only girls who are 12 years old or younger have been allowed to attend school.

This was a big concern for many people because they worried that women’s rights might be taken away, just like what happened when the Taliban ruled in the 1990s.

The Taliban came back to power in August 2021, after foreign forces led by the United States left Afghanistan. Since then, the Taliban has been following a very strict interpretation of Islam.

They stopped girls from going to secondary school in March last year, just a few hours after reopening schools for both girls and boys.

This is peculiar because in most Muslim-majority countries, girls are allowed to go to school.

The leaders of the Taliban have said that they will allow girls to go to secondary school again, but only if certain conditions are met. They want to change the curriculum to be more in line with their interpretation of Islam.

Some Taliban leaders have even said that Islam gives women the right to education and work.

How is life in Afghanistan now?

In Afghanistan, women have also lost many opportunities publicly.

They’ve been removed from government jobs or are paid much less than before to stay at home. This has caused problems because families are now marrying off teenage girls early, so they don’t have to support them.

This situation is hurting girls and women in Afghanistan. It’s taking away their rights and dignity.

If the ban on girls’ high school education continues, it may lead to women’s exclusion from various societal roles, all in the name of religion.

The Taliban has allowed some women, like educators, nurses, doctors, and a few government workers, to keep their jobs.

But without the chance to get higher education, there won’t be enough educated women to fill these roles in the future.

Wrapping up

In the wake of the heart-wrenching poisoning incident that unfolded in Afghanistan, we are confronted with a tragic tale. It is also a stark reminder of the enduring struggles faced by Afghan women who aspire to pursue education.

In a society where girls’ educational opportunities are limited, and university education is denied, the future remains uncertain.

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