Girls School Poisoned in Afghanistan Today
This morning at 9:00am in Kabul, 46 girls and their teachers were poisoned in their classroom at the
Tuteya Girls' Primary School in the Karte Naw neighbourhood of Kabul. The girls have been hospitalized, and it appears that a chemical gas was sprayed in their class some time before their arrival. While the incident is still being investigated, this is a trademark tactic of the Taliban's, who remain fundamentally opposed to the education of girls and women. One might say they are simply opposed to girls and women, period. This evidently doesn't bother a lot of people in the West, as in James Fergusson's recent nod to Taliban misogyny.
But it really bothers me. Because for all the cultural relativism trumpeted in the west, Afghan girls still show up to school when their classmates end up poisoned in the hospital, their teachers end up dead, their principals beheaded, and their schools burned down. They want to go to school that badly. A 17-year-old student at the Mirwais Mena Girls School in Kandahar, Shamsia, suffered severe eye injuries in 2008 when Taliban threw acid on her and her classmates on their way to morning classes. Days after the attack, she had this to say:
I will go to my school even if they kill me... My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.
And though Shamsia couldn't make herself any more clear, the fantasy that Afghan women prefer destitution, illiteracy and abuse persists in the west, as does the idea that their culture is static and fundamentally different from our own. Whenever I write an article insisting that education is the way out of war in Afghanistan in the long-term, I get a barrage of email from readers warning me that it's bad to "impose education" on "the other". It's a colonial enterprise, they shreik, just another way to control and subjugate people! Teach them "indigenous knowledge", they counsel, not "western knowledge," which is apparently, science. That way, the place can stay quaint and exotic, and we can read interesting National Geographic articles about it.
Fortunately, besides children, who can recognize nonsense more easily and know that the human right to education is universal, there are people out there who reject the decrepit ideology that education is inherently western, imperialist and otherwise a form of mind control. There are those like the US-based Women for Afghan Women, the organization sheltering and caring for Bibi Aisha, who graced Time's cover earlier this month. WAW is supporting Aisha to access reconstructive surgery in California and to start on a literacy program. An update on her progress is available in this interview on Voice of America with Esther Hyneman, board member of WAW.
Also from our allies down South, there is an excellent news article this week by Quil Lawrence (who incidentally has a wonderful name) at NPR:
The Taliban has denied that its militants tortured, hanged and shot a widow in Afghanistan's western Baghdis province for adultery.
It's not the principle the Taliban disagrees with — in a lengthy press release, a Taliban spokesman said that the woman should have been stoned to death instead.
How very ethnic.
Lauryn Oates is a contributing writer for The Propagandist.