Acid Attack On Afghan Schoolgirls
Causes Fear, Anxiety Among Parents
By Farangis Najibullah
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
November 15, 2008
Afghan education authorities say they are facing a
difficult task of convincing parents to send their
daughters to school as attacks on female students have
increased in recent months.
Three girls sustained severe burns in the southern
town of Kandahar earlier in the week when unknown men
sprayed acid on up to 15 girls. One of the girls might
permanently lose her sight.
Under its strict interpretation of Islam, the
Taliban regime banned girls from receiving educations
while it ruled the country before its overthrow in
Classes have been cancelled in Kandahar's Nazo Ana
high school for girls as most of its students and
teachers have decided to stay home after hearing about
the acid attack.
Mahmud Qaderi, the school's director, said only
some 35 girls -- out of 1,300 students -- showed up at
school on November 15. "Our classrooms are normally
full," the director said.
Qaderi hopes parents' anxiety will soon disappear
and that the girls will return to school.
One of the victims, Atifa, told RFE/RL's Radio Free
Afghanistan that she was walking to school with her
sister and cousins on the morning of November 12 when
two men riding motorcycles sprayed acid on the girls'
faces with water pistols.
Kandahar schoolgirls are easily recognizable with
their uniforms of white tops, black trousers, dark
coats, and headscarves.
Atifa said some of the girls were lucky enough to
escape with minor injures, while at least three others
were hospitalized with severe burns on their faces,
necks, and hands. One of them is still unable to open
her eyes and doctors fear she may lose her eyesight.
She was taken to Kabul military hospital for medical
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack,
but Afghan officials blame the Taliban for targeting
students. Girls were banned from school during the
hard-line militants' rule that ended in 2001.
Kandahar was the Taliban's main stronghold and is
still one of the most volatile areas in the war-torn
However, schoolgirls are also being targeted in the
relatively stable and peaceful province of Balkh in
Villagers in Balkh's Jarbulak and Chimtal districts
have said unknown people distributed leaflets to their
houses overnight, warning them against sending their
daughters to school.
According to Afghanistan's Education Ministry over
120 schools came under attack, with some of them burnt
down. Nearly 600 schools have been closed down because
of security threats.
Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for
many of the attacks, vowing to carry out more.
Siddiq Patman, Afghanistan's deputy education
minister, said most of the attacks take place in the
southern and eastern provinces, such as Kandahar,
Paktika, and Logar where the Taliban have more
influence among local people.
Two girls were killed and three more wounded when
gunmen targeted schoolchildren in Logar Province last
Parents Want Reassurance
Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai,
have condemned the latest acid attack in Kandahar as a
"cowardly act" against innocent children.
Parents, however, want the government to do more
than just condemning the attacks. Many want to know if
the government is capable of protecting their children
and preventing such incidents in future.
A Kandahar resident, whose two daughters were among
the acid attack victims, said she had always wanted
her daughters to get an education and "not to be left
illiterate like their parents."
However, now she is having second thoughts. "I
won't send my daughters to school after such an
attack. Would you?" said the mother.
Patman said the Education Ministry has asked local
governments to deploy more police officers to protect
students and teachers and their schools.
They have also called on parents to accompany their
children to and from school.
"Education Ministry alone cannot do much to protect
our students and schools," said the deputy minister.
"Everyone, including parents, local people, and
religious leaders have to take part in this campaign
-- because our country's future depends on the
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this