An attack on Afghan school girls occurred Tuesday, April 17, in the capital city of Kabul. 150 girls were poisoned after drinking contaminated water, according to Reuters.    The girls were hospitalized, some in critical condition, while most suffered from headaches and vomiting.  School officials are hesitant to point fingers, afraid they might instigate further attacks. But the message is clear, the education of these girls is being threatened.

This attack was a harsh reminder of the Taliban takeover from 1996-2001, when the ultra-conservative militant force was adamantly opposed to women being educated and stripped them of every advancement they had made toward equality. According to a haunting article by the US Department of State, the Taliban defies the accordances of Islamic law that protect women’s rights. Afghan women had won the right to vote in the 1920s, and by 1960 the Afghan Constitution provided equality for women. But under the Taliban’s oppressive regime, these rights were rescinded, and even such a basic human right as health care was suspended; in the grip of Taliban rule, women were not allowed to see male doctors. As female doctors were expelled from their practice and women were banned from the work force, this meant that women’s health swiftly deteriorated.

Furthermore, girls were kicked out of schools and universities. Any girl over the age of eight (equivalent in the US to a second-grader) was banned from education altogether. Women could go nowhere alone, and when they left the confines of home they were forced to mask themselves under tent-like Burqa’s. These full body shields literally and symbolically hid them from the world, deeming them invisible.

For all the progress made for women in Afghanistan, there is an ongoing fight with ‘hardline Islamists’, who wish to block women’s basic human rights, especially education. How can females be disenfranchised as human beings and then be said to “hold up half the sky”?  Education is the door to freedom, and there is an ongoing struggle to keep this door open to women.

The Fight for Education

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