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KABUL – The poisoning of more than 100 female students in Rostaq District, Takhar Province, April 17 shows that militants are still intent on blocking Afghan girls from getting an education, officials from the Afghan Ministry of Education said.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the action, provincial officials suspect the Taliban, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported April 18.
“The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to prevent girls' education in every way possible, using all kinds of pretexts,” said Amanullah Iman, a Ministry of Education spokesman.
“The enemies of Afghanistan conduct such practices anonymously because they have no Islamic religious excuses for preventing the students’ education,” Iman told Central Asia Online.
This is not the first time that Afghan girls have been mysteriously poisoned at schools. In April 2010 suspected food and water poisoning affected 80 girls, and in August 2010 toxic gas was released into a girls’ school. In both attacks students were sickened, but no fatalities were reported.
“This is not the first act of the enemies of Afghanistan, nor will it be the last one,” Iman said. “However, necessary measures have been adopted to prevent this practice in the future.”
“This is an inhumane and un-Islamic act that I strongly condemn, no matter what group practices it,” Nasimeh Niazi, an Afghan parliamentarian representing Helmand Province, told Central Asia Online.
“Militants should not target Afghan schoolgirls for political purposes,” Niazi said.
During the Taliban regime, 1996-2001, Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school or receive a formal education. But since the fall of the Taliban, girls have returned to school, and each year more and more seek an education.
Rebels will not succeed
Habibeh, a student from Taloqan, capital of Takhar Province, expressed her anger after learning of the Rostaq District poisonings.
Although she has “concerns regarding this issue,” Habibeh said they cannot prevent her or her classmates from going to school.
“This practice of insurgents is in enmity with Islam, since Islam ordered every man and woman to follow the path of education,” said Habibeh. “Therefore, Afghan girls will not surrender to the despicable practices of the insurgents.”
After a poisoning at a girls’ school in Kabul last year, the girls resumed their studies after they received treatment, Niloofar Navvabi, a student in Kabul, said.
“The rebels must know that these actions cannot prevent Afghan girls from going to school, because Afghan girls are now aware that illiteracy is the cause of all the calamities of the Afghan people.”
“This practice of the opposition will not prevent students from getting an education, because families in Takhar support the education of their children,” said Jan-Mohammad Nabizadeh, an official from Takhar Province’s Education Directorate.
The cause of the April poisoning is still unclear. Police, however, are investigating and have sent samples of the drinking water from the school’s water tank to Kabul for analysis.
Most of the poisoned girls were discharged soon after treatment and only 15 are still in the hospital, according to Takhar Province Health Department officials.