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    » 05/28/2012, 00.00

    AFGHANISTAN

    Hundreds of girls poisoned in school, suspicions and doubts about radical Muslims



    Forty-three girls were taken to hospital yesterday. Four days earlier, 120 students and some teachers also felt sick from poisoning. The Taliban deny responsibility. Some experts suggest it might be "mass hysteria" caused by fear.

    Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds of girls in a high school in northern Takhar province have suffered poisoning in different incidents over a number of days. The authorities suspect radical Muslims opposed to women's education.

    The poisoning occurred in three separate cases, the last one, yesterday. Forty-three students at the Bibi Hajira High School in the provincial capital of Taloqan felt ill for no apparent reason. Several fainted and had to be taken to hospital.

    Four days earlier, 120 students and three teachers went through the same experience in the same school, which has about 3,000 students.

    Police believe that Muslim radicals opposed to the education of girls used an unidentified toxic powder to contaminate the air in classrooms.

    The authorities have opened an inquiry. Blood samples were taken from the girls and sent for testing.

    When they were in power (1996-2001), the Taliban banned schooling for girls. When they fell, schools reopened but in areas where they operate, incidents and fires occur in or near schools, often with harmful effects for the students.

    The Taliban have denied any responsibility in school destruction or the recent poisoning incident.

    The girls involved in the latest case were dismissed from hospital after undergoing a check-up.

    Since the students recover quickly after their hospital visit and no evidence of poisoning has been found, some experts believe that fear of Taliban retaliation is causing mass hysteria.

    After a similar incident in Khost province, 200 students who said they felt sick were tested by NATO doctors.  The results were negative; no trace of poison were found in the air, the water or any other possible target.

    For sociologist Robert Bartholomew, these incidents are part of a "larger social panic involving the fear of Taliban insurgents".

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    See also

    14/01/2011 AFGHANISTAN
    Taliban no longer opposed to female education
    Afghan education minister makes the announcement in London. Sources tell AsiaNews that a cultural change is underway in the country. However, low teacher salaries and the distribution of international aid in education are major problems.

    12/02/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    Despite Taliban attacks, more and more children and teenagers going to school
    Islamists rebels want to undermine education. In the last ten months they have murdered 147 teachers and students and destroyed 98 schools. Unfortunately many areas still lack proper schools and pupils end up in madrassas that preach fundamentalism and hatred.

    03/03/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    The challenge of educating against Taliban terrorism
    Schools re-open for 6.5 million children. In the absence of classrooms, materials and teachers, the Taliban burn schools and kill teachers in their attempt to prevent a better future.

    29/03/2007 AFGHANISTAN
    Islamic state schools to counter the Taliban Madrassah
    Kabul decides to open Islamic schools under government control, where general culture studies, computers and foreign languages will figure on the curriculum beside religious studies. Education Minister: “The enemies of democracy in this country are actually using education as a weapon of terrorism”. Teacher formation programmes for men and women also planned.

    13/11/2008 AFGHANISTAN
    Acid thrown in faces of five young women in Kandahar, "guilty" of going to school
    Responsibility for the crime is attributed to the Taliban, who have an extensive presence in the area. During their government, they imposed an absolute ban on any form of education for females.



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