September 20, 2012

Nadia Mayen: Afghan Girls’ Long Road to Education

By Nadia Mayen | Al Arabiya | Like any girl around the world, Afghan girls want the freedom to pursue an education and gainful employment ─ but for many of them, that is not possible without threats to their lives.

Recently, over 400 Afghan girls fell prey to acts of violence in their schools across the country.

More than 160 school girls and teachers were poisoned in their school last month with a toxic substance that was sprayed in the air of their classrooms in the Takhar province alone.

Officials have pointed the finger at the Taliban but the group denies responsibility.

It remains unclear as to who is responsible for attacking these young students.

When the Taliban was in power in 1996 to 2001, girls were forbidden from attending school and some from working. Parents would home school their daughters just so they would not fall far behind in their education. It was only after the 2001 U.S. invasion were girls allowed to attend school.

The government of Afghanistan ─ which has been attempting to bring democracy into the country ─ has no objection towards girls receiving an education. President Hamid Karzi has even established laws protecting women and attempted to reduce acts of violence against them. Yet, a high number of reports continue to surface of attacks on girls and women in Afghanistan. Child marriage continues to occur in smaller remote villages behind authorities’ backs and most of these marriages end in tragedy.

According to Afghan official, Mostafa Rasuli, 16 suspects have been detained in the Takhar province in connection with the attack on girls’ school. Some of the suspects are a number of Pakistani women working for a Taliban insurgent leader in a clinic.

Latifullah Mashal, an intelligence service spokesman told the Huffington Post on Wednesday that the insurgents bribed students and workers into sneaking poison into drinking water or spreading it around school grounds.

As attacks continue, concerns rise about women’s rights after the United States completes the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

Will the withdrawal bring Afghanistan back to square one of male dominance over their women? Or will women continue to fight hard for freedoms?

“Many Afghans worry that NATO’s departure from Afghanistan will put basic rights under increasing threat,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Unless urgent steps are taken to address Afghanistan’s governance crisis, NATO’s legacy may be a country run by abusive warlords and unaccountable security forces.”

An estimated 2.7 million Afghan girls were enrolled in school in 2011, in comparison to the 5,000 in 2001. Unfortunately those who can’t afford going to school say they feel imprisoned in their own home and even worse, because they are being denied an education.

Should Afghan girls be deprived the right to an education? Perhaps the government should implement tougher laws to protect these young eager students attending schools.

How can we help the future generations?

The victims of the school attacks remain traumatized and shaken following the events which took place at the start of the school year. Is harming the students with toxic substances going to change their will? And if new tougher laws are implemented will the attackers stop their attempts?
Several organization have focused on bringing supplies to children in developing nations like Afghanistan to push them a step towards a better future.

The Help Afghan School Children Organization, HASCO a non-profit based in Vienna has organized a school supplies distribution program to assist hundreds of Afghan poor children to receive school bags, stationary and other school necessities.

It is important to educate conservative Afghans that one girl’s knowledge can bring a whole new world to her community.

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