150 Afghan schoolgirls have been poisoned in what reports are deeming an “anti-education” attack.
“We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or irresponsible armed individuals,” Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for the province’s education department, told Reuters.
Officials knew the attack was intentional because only the schoolgirls’ water was poisoned– the larger tank where they got the water remained uncontaminated.
“This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls,” said the head of the province’s public health department.
Females in Afghanistan have been allowed to seek an education since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001, but they are still subject to periodic retribution from those who disagree with their choices, particularly in the more conservative regions of the country.
No group has yet stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack, and officials have declined to name suspects, fearing potential retribution.
The Taliban, a prime suspect for many, said last year that it no longer opposes women’s education in an effort to adopt a more “moderate” face.
However, according to Reuters, the Taliban “has never stated [its opposition to women's education] explicitly, and in the past acid has been thrown in the faces of women and girls by hardline Islamists while walking to school.”
The fate of many of the girls remains to be seen. Some are in critical condition, while others are expected to recover after treatment in the hospital.
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