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Girls’ schools closing in Afghanistan as attacks on pupils continue

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Julie Tomlin
WVoN co-editor

Up to 550 girls’ schools in Afghanistan have reportedly closed down as conservatives are blamed for the second poisoning of pupils and teachers since April.

More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers were taken to hospital after they were poisoned in Takhar province, where police radicals opposed to education of women and girls had contaminated the air in classrooms (see WVoN story).

Last month in the town of Rostaq (see WVoN story) 171 pupils and staff were admitted to hospital after drinking contaminated water.

Attacks on girls’ schools are not new: arson, rocket attacks and poisonings have all been used by those opposed to girls’ education.Teachers have been threatened and schoolgirls have even been targeted with acid attacks.

But the revelation by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education that 550 schools in 11 provinces have recently closed down in areas where the Taliban enjoys popular support will only serve to increase fears that the influence of the extremists is strengthening.

“Most of these are girls’ schools and it is obvious that the Taliban are responsible for the threats against them,” ministry spokesman Amanullah Iman said.

The Taliban has denied involvement, but the attacks reinforce fears that advances made by women in recent years are in the process of being reversed.

Girls and women who had been banned by the Taliban from receiving an education returned to school after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, especially in the capital Kabul.

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, has said however that the Taliban are intent on closing schools ahead of the withdrawal by foreign combat troops in 2014.

Women’s rights campaigners have continued to call for guarantees that women’s rights will not be sacrificed in any peace deal with the Taliban (see WVoN story).

In an open letter to President Barrack Obama and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, Amnesty International raised concerns that “significant gains” made by women and girls in Afghanistan may be threatened as US and allied troops leave the country.

“We urge you to adopt a comprehensive action plan to guarantee that the clock is not turned back on a decade of strides in education, health, security and employment for women and girls.”

  1. Naomi Wilcox says:

    It’s so worrying. Deep changes need to happen in the country’s psyche before things like this will stop. I sponsor a woman in Afghanistan via Women for Women International. On the sponsorship program she will be taught basic skills, but importantly also taught about her rights. I truly hope the future will be different for women in Afghanistan…I don’t know how we get there.

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