In a devastating turn of events, an unimaginable tragedy has struck the heart of Afghanistan. Reports have emerged of nearly 80 primary schoolgirls who are believed to have fallen prey to a shocking incident of suspected poisoning.
For countless children across the globe, despite the undeniable difficulties that come with fitting in among others at such a sensitive age, a typical day in school should be filled with laughter, friendship, and the pursuit of knowledge. Unfortunately for these young girls, such a simplistic view of their education was turned to dust when they began experiencing symptoms of illness, causing widespread concern and panic.
Symptoms including headaches, nausea, and dizziness subsequently led to their hospitalisation and an outpouring of grief from their families and the global community.
It’s important to note that in Afghanistan, girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade, including university. Moreover, women are barred from most jobs and public spaces.
The poisonings happened in Sancharak district, explained Mohammad Rahmani, who heads the provincial education department, to the Associated Press, adding that 60 students were poisoned in Naswan-e-Kabod Aab School and 17 others in Naswan-e-Faizabad School.
“Both primary schools are near each other and were targeted one after the other,” Rahmani continued. “We shifted the students to hospital and now they are all fine.” He gave no information on how the girls were poisoned or the nature of their injuries, but we do know that they were all in grades one to six.
As news of this tragedy spread, voices around the world joined in collective outrage and demanded justice for the affected schoolgirls.
The recent incident sheds light on the immense difficulties faced by women and young girls aiming to pursue their dreams under extremist political regimes. A similar tragedy unfolded in Iran, where between November 2022 and March 2023, up to 7,000 schoolgirls fell victim to poisoning in numerous schools across 28 out of the country’s 31 provinces, as reported by various human rights groups and government officials.
These young girls experienced harrowing symptoms including respiratory distress, limb numbness, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Speaking on the poisonings in Iran, Amnesty International stated: “The rights to education, health, and life of millions of schoolgirls are at risk amid ongoing chemical gas attacks deliberately targeting girls’ schools in Iran. Since November 2022, thousands of schoolgirls have been poisoned and hospitalised. The authorities have failed to adequately investigate and end the attacks and [have] dismissed [the] girls’ symptoms as ‘stress’, ‘excitement’ and/or ‘mental contagion’.”
It’s still unclear as to how these kinds of attacks can be prevented, particularly considering the extremely turbulent and volatile states both Iran and Afghanistan find themselves in currently. Nevertheless, these events do serve as a painful reminder of the countless and devastating challenges faced by so many girls who’re trying to seek out an education.