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Afghan schoolgirls poisoned after drinking contaminated water

Apr 19, 2012

The cost of wanting to become an educated woman is high in Afghanistan. Over the years, these young schoolgirls have suffered due to gas attacks, acid attacks and poisoned water; all aimed at keeping them away from schools.

Over a hundred people including eighty-six school girls were poisoned after they drank contaminated water from a water tank of a high school in Rustaq district of Takhar province in Afghanistan. These girls suffered symptoms such as nausea and headaches and were later hospitalised in critical condition.

Mohammad Hussain, the governor of the district, has sought an investigation into the matter, calling it a conspiracy. Officials suspect that conservative radicals against education of women are responsible for the incident although they did not name a specific group.

"We are 100 per cent sure that the water they drank inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls' education or irresponsible armed individuals," the Bakhtar News Agency quoted Jan Mohammad Nabizada, the spokesperson of the education department of Takhar provinces as saying.

“Extremists in Afghanistan are doing their best to terrorize them out of going to school. In 2008 alone, there were 283 violent attacks on schools, resulting in 92 dead and 169 injured,” says a UNICEF report.

This is not the first time when Afghan girls have been targeted. On May 11, 2009, nearly 50 teenage girls were taken to hospital after a suspected mass poisoning at an Afghan girls' school in the town of Charikar, which was the second such incident in that very month.

Before 2001, Taliban, a group of insurgents, had banned education for women and girls in the country. After the ouster of Taliban, girls in Afghanistan are theoretically free to attend schools but in reality, they are extremely vulnerable to militant attacks.

In April 2010, over 80 schoolgirls fell sick in Kabul after a suspected poison gas attack on schools, where the authorities blamed conservative groups. In the southern town of Kandahar, sixteen schoolgirls sustained severe acid attack burns while walking to school in November, 2008. In 2009 alone, there were 50 attacks on schools every month across Afghanistan.

In the past years, girl students and schools have been continuously attacked by the Taliban and other extremist groups forcing teachers and students to remain out of the schools.“61% of schools in the Zabul province remain closed due to insecurity,” states Ministry of Education.

“Extremists in Afghanistan are doing their best to terrorize them out of going to school. In 2008 alone, there were 283 violent attacks on schools, resulting in 92 dead and 169 injured,” says a UNICEF report.

According to UNICEF, over 2.2 million Afghan girls are now in school and by 2013; primary school enrollment for girls is expected to increase by 20 per cent but the security of Afghan schoolgirls still remains a distant dream.

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