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In a continued attack against the education of women in Afghanistan, 160 female students were poisoned Tuesday at a school in the north-eastern province of Takhar. The second wave of violence in only a week’s time, the incident follows a similar pattern as the first, with police suspecting the classroom had been sprayed with a toxic material before the girls arrived to take their lessons.
Aged 10 to 20, the students reportedly smelled a strange odor upon entering the room, before experiencing symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, with many vomiting before losing consciousness. All were immediately taken to the hospital; most were discharged after only a few hours.
While none of the victims are in critical condition from the poisoning, there remains the obvious potential for emotional trauma after the incident – which is undoubtedly the true goal of this vicious assault. Extremists in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, have long opposed the many attempts to educate women in the country.
From throwing acid in the faces of girls on their way to school, to setting off bombs near institutions that allow education for both sexes, it has never been a secret how these groups feel about the women of their country garnering knowledge. One of the major goals of their campaign is to keep women ignorant, and what better way is there to do so than to emotionally scar girls from attempting to go to school again? From making these children fear the concept of it?
While no one has formally claimed responsibility for the poisoning of the schools, many have already pronounced the Taliban as the guilty party due to their history of violence and threats against schools and women. The militant group, however, denies any culpability in the incident, instead going so far as to claim that NATO and the United States are attempting to frame them for the heinous act.
Whether the Taliban was involved or not, the poisonings only serve to further increase concern about a potential comeback for the insurgents in the government, after the Western states agreed to pull their military forces out of the country by the year 2014.
The Taliban held a strong reign on Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when U.S troops invaded to try and foster democracy within the nation. Prior to U.S intervention, there was a ban on education for women, which many believe will come back into effect if the Taliban find themselves in a position to return to power.