Islamic Terrorism in India

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Acid attack on Afghan girls blinds 1, hundreds of schoolgirls frightened to attend school

Posted by jagoindia on November 17, 2008

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Acid attack blinds Afghan student:
Eight schoolgirls are targeted; teachers and residents rattled
GRAEME SMITH, From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
November 13, 2008 at 4:06 AM EST

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Before yesterday, Shamsia had dark brown eyes and smooth skin the colour of wheat. Now, blinded in an acid attack because she dared to go to school, Shamsia will never see her spoiled beauty.

Eight girls were splashed with acid near a school yesterday morning in an attack by two men on a motorcycle. But friends of 16-year-old Shamsia say she suffered the worst because she wasn’t protected by the enveloping burka. She was wearing only a head scarf that exposed her face, a bold choice for a teenage girl in Kandahar.

It was a day of many tragedies in Kandahar, with a truck bombing that killed six people, but the loss that may reverberate the most for war-weary residents is those beautiful eyes. Female students and teachers say they’re frightened to go back to school, even though staying away from class will signal another failure for the dream of modernizing Afghanistan. The simple act of attending school is a political statement for girls in a province where many families still frown on female education.

“After we saw her eyes, nobody will go to school any more,” said Safia Ibrahimi.

Atifa Bibi recovers in a Kandahar hospital after two men on a motorcycle threw acid on her as she was walking to school Wednesday. (Allauddin Khan/Associated Press)

Ms. Ibrahimi, a 53-year-old teacher at the Mirwais Minna girls school on the west side of Kandahar city, added: “It’s like the Taliban government is here again.”

The Taliban denied involvement, but they often deny a role in controversial acts. As the insurgents’ power rises, the frightened girls of Mirwais Minna say they have reached a turning point in Afghanistan’s culture war.

“We cannot go back,” said Susan Ibrahimi, 18, who was hit by the acid and suffered minor burns on her face. She had recently graduated and joined her mother, Safia, as an instructor, teaching girls in Grade 4. Her girls will probably stop coming to class, she said, and in any case she’s not willing to risk travelling to school – even though it’s only a five-minute walk.

“We will wait until we have security again in Kandahar,” she said. “Maybe we will need to wait for a long time. Maybe they will close the girls schools.”

Acid attacks are unusual in Kandahar; the last reported incident occurred in 2002 when a suspected Islamic militant threw acid on a female teacher. But throwing acid has become a worryingly common way for traditionalists to enforce gender roles in other South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, and yesterday’s attack was a clear reference to the medieval restrictions the Taliban regime placed on women.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Canadian military, the U.S. military and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance all condemned the attack, trying to highlight the Taliban’s brutality.

“This is a sophisticated, dangerous and complicated land, with some fascinating people – some of who are not keen that we’re here, but the vast majority are delighted that we’re here, trying to protect their citizens, themselves if you would, from the type of foe who would throw acid on young girls who are trying to get an education,” Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, commander of Canada’s land forces, said during a visit to Kandahar Airfield. “Arguably, that’s why we’re here, and that’s what Canadian soldiers do,” Gen. Leslie continued. “We risk our lives to bring a certain degree of peace and security when possible to those young schoolgirls.”

But such actions by Canadian troops are not always popular. Many people in the conservative south – especially the rural areas – have been unsettled by the rapid cultural shift under the new government, which has brought a dizzying array of women’s initiatives, a new bureaucracy devoted to women’s rights, and a quota for women in parliament that has exceeded the female political representation in countries such as Canada.

The men who sprayed the acid did not appear to be carrying guns, Susan Ibrahimi said, and the nearby shopkeepers or passersby could have intervened if they had felt motivated.

“People in the street just watched, they didn’t do anything,” she said. “We begged them to help.”

Other witnesses have described the attackers as armed, however, and Ms. Ibrahimi acknowledged that it’s possible the onlookers were just scared to interfere. But she added that a strong majority of families in Kandahar disagree with schooling for girls.

Still, she said, enforcement of basic security might allow people with different points of view to live peacefully together. Enrolment at the Mirwais Minna school was showing healthy growth in recent years despite the rising insurgency.

“Until now the number of girls in school was increasing,” Ms. Ibrahimi said. “We didn’t have any threats, nothing. We need security, this is the first thing.”

In a separate incident yesterday, a suicide bomber detonated an oil tanker in a heavily guarded neighbourhood of downtown Kandahar. Six people were killed and 42 injured, including four politicians from the provincial council who were slightly hurt by falling pieces of the ceiling in their offices, officials said. Other nearby government buildings were also damaged, and the blast largely destroyed the house of the former chief of intelligence for Kandahar, whose brother was among those killed.

Haji Mohammed Qassam, a provincial council member, said Taliban threats against the council have been circulating for the past two weeks.

“It’s a very dangerous time in Afghanistan,” Mr. Qassam said, “especially in Kandahar.”

About 1,500 schoolgirls stay home after acid attack
Updated Thu. Nov. 13 2008 7:43 AM ET News Staff

Some 1,500 Afghan girls stayed home from school on Thursday, one day after a vicious acid attack on eight of their fellow students.

The principal of Mirwais Minna Girl’s School in Kandahar said none of the 1,500 girls enrolled at the school showed up Thursday because of fear.

On Wednesday, two men on a motorcycle hurled acid at the eight girls in a shocking attack that made headlines around the world.

Three of the eight girls were hospitalized with serious burns and others have been treated and released. U.S. military spokesmen said at least two of the girls still in hospital were blinded.

Two girls who were wearing full-length burkas were not harmed.

Mahmood Qaderi, the principal at the school, called the attackers the “enemy of Afghanistan” and the “enemy of education.”

“They want our youth to be illiterate and not get an education,” Qaderi said Thursday.

He said both students and teachers are worried about their safety.

“Until security improves… they will not go to the school,” he said.

Video of two of the badly burned girls shows them both in a state of shock, with one barely able to open her eyes.

Bibi Athifa, one of the girls who suffered acid burns to her face, said she and her friends were walking to school when two armed gunmen on a motorbike stopped.

“One guy squirted acid from a bottle on us,” she said. “Nobody warned us. Nobody threatened us. We don’t have any enemies,” she said.

Afghanistan’s government has condemned the attack, calling it un-Islamic and perpetrated by the “country’s enemies,” a usual reference used to describe the Taliban.

“We hope our students will continue their education after this terrorist act and we strongly condemn the attack and hope we find the culprits and bring the criminals who are doing these kinds of activities to justice,” Education Ministry spokesman Hamed Almi said Thursday.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi has denied that the insurgents were involved.

During the Taliban’s rule, between 1996 to 2001, girls were banned from schools. They were also not allowed to leave their home without a male family escort.

One Response to “Acid attack on Afghan girls blinds 1, hundreds of schoolgirls frightened to attend school”

  1. Jaime said

    These attacks should be divorced from Islam:

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