Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Afghan girls staying away from schools because of attacks

AP , KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.

The day before, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.

The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school on Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.

One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.

“Today the school is open, but there are no girls,” Qaderi said on Thursday. “Yesterday, all of the classes were full.”

His school has 1,500 students.

Afghanistan’s government condemned the attack as “un-Islamic” and blamed it on the “country’s enemies,” a typical reference to Taliban militants. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, denied the insurgents were involved.

Girls were banned from schools under the rule of the Taliban, the hardline Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.

Qaderi said he believed there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.

The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule.

Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.

But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.

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