Time we gave the girls a break

Knowledge is power, so believed the ancient Greek philosophers. So whoever is trying to prevent Afghan children, especially girls, from going to school clearly feel threatened by their empowerment.

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Published: Tue 27 Apr 2010, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:35 PM

As if burning down of schools and attacks on school teachers was not enough, there are reports of Afghan girls being targeted by poison attacks suspected to be carried out by the Taleban insurgents.

The Afghan authorities have reported at least three incidents of such ‘poison attacks’ targeting young schoolgirls. The incident on Sunday, the third such to be reported from Kunduz province in the past couple of weeks, brings the number of girls affected to 80. In another incident affecting another school, 43 girls have reported spells of giddiness and nausea.

Thankfully, no one developed any serious complications and most of the girls were discharged after treatment at a local hospital. While the Afghan authorities are still investigating the matter and it’s perhaps too early to apportion the blame, given the country’s recent history the finger of suspicion is being pointed at the Taleban. Girls’ schools have been attacked in similar fashion in other parts of Afghanistan over the past few years.

In one attack in Kandahar in 2008, around 15 girls and teachers were sprayed with acid by men on motorbikes. During the Taleban rule, from 1996-2001, girls were banned from attending school. So it’s perhaps only natural that the Taleban once again top the list of usual suspects in this case although their involvement is yet to be established. But whoever is responsible for this outrage, they must be held to account and suitably punished. We have no sympathy for the government in Kabul or its western backers. But we find ourselves nodding in agreement when President Hamid Karzai says whoever prevents children from going to school is an enemy of Afghanistan and its prosperity.

For no country can succeed on any front without its people first empowering themselves educationally. From political empowerment to economic progress, everything begins with education. This is all the more true when it comes to women’s education. As they say, if you teach a man, you help him advance himself and get a job. But if you teach a woman, you transform the existence of an entire family and a nation.

So if the Taleban are real well wishers of Afghanistan and its long suffering people, they would not be targeting innocent children, especially girls, from going to school. This is all the more absurd for a movement that claims to champion Islam, a religion that makes the pursuit of knowledge and education an obligatory duty for both men and women. Islam believes in empowering women, not in poisoning them. Please give the girls a break!

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