Posted by: Lister | December 21, 2008

Mirwais Meena Girls School

There was an acid attack on the pupils and teachers back in November. But I didn’t hear about it. MMW linked to an article on Friday. From the Institute of War and Peace Reporting:

The Mirwais Meena girls’school used to be a bustling place with over 1300 students. But now the halls and grounds are nearly empty, the swings hang motionless on the recreation field.

On a late November morning, there were only a dozen or so girls and three female teachers to be seen. The rest, traumatised by a vicious attack on November 12 that left several girls disfigured and two blinded, have chosen to stay at home.

[…] The attack came as the girls and their teachers were leaving the school, according to eyewitnesses. Men on motorbikes, wielding what appeared to be water pistols, squirted acid on several groups of girls and their teachers. Many were wearing burqas, but they were targeted just the same. School officials say that most of the girls were related, and they all came from the same village.

Atifah was one of the group that was attacked. She escaped with injuries to her hands, but her cousins were not so lucky.

“There was a man with a black pistol in his hand, and he was glaring at me,” she recalled. “Then he pointed the pistol at me and squirted acid at me. It got on my hands, but my cousins had acid thrown on their burqas. One of my cousins is in very bad shape now. She got acid in her eyes. They have now sent her to India for treatment.”

[…] Fatima, whose daughter had acid thrown on her face, has pushed her to go back.

“I will never let my daughter refuse to go to school,” she said, standing with the girl on the school grounds. “The government has to find a way to provide transportation for the students, particularly for the girls. Look at Pakistan and Iran. They send their girls to school, but we cannot. I will never block the way for my daughter to go to school. Those who did this thing should know that is not human. My daughter even wore hijab, but they threw acid on her face.”

[…] On November 25, the governor of Kandahar, Rahmatullah Raufi, announced that ten men had been arrested in connection with the attack. “Several of them” had confessed, he added.

Mohammad Daoud Daoud, deputy interior minister, told the media in Kandahar that the men had been paid the equivalent of 2,000 US dollars for each girl they attacked. He said that, once the investigation was completed, the men would be punished to the full extent of the law.

While the world press and much of the Afghan media has rushed to put the blame squarely on the Taleban, the insurgents deny responsibility. Their objections to girls’ schooling have been well-documented, but such attacks, say Taleban officials, are to be condemned.

Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, spokesperson for the Taleban in the south, told IWPR that his group was not involved in the outrage.

“This criminal act was not done by the Taleban,” he said. “We condemn this. I say it again – we have not done this thing, and those who were arrested are not our people. This government will say anything, and they punish people who are not even guilty.”

The BBC worldservice has an article on one of the teenagers:

Shamsia said that two men on motorcycles drove alongside her and her sister as they were on their way to school at 8 o’clock in the morning. They were running late.

One of the men asked where they were going. “To school” she replied. It was then that he sprayed the acid into her face using a small plastic gun.

She shouted for help, but no one came. She managed to get home where her mother took her to hospital.

[…] Baktash says he was struck by Shamsia’s bravery as she said she had one message for those who threw the acid on her face: “If they repeat this action on me a hundred times I will never leave school and I will continue my studying.”

And she had another message for Kandahari school girls: “Please, please, please do not leave school and your learning.”

The BBC’s article on the attack, Nov 12th

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