Two suspected gas attacks on Afghan schoolgirls sickened dozens of girls from the northern Kunduz Province and at least six from Kabul yesterday. According to Reuters, one of the students sickened in Kunduz, Farzana, reported seeing a man whose mouth and nose were covered throw a bottle near the school. In Kabul, a student named Samira told Reuters “I smelled something very sweet and when I went and told my teachers about it they said it was not a big incident but later on I saw girls falling down and collapsing and vomiting so we called the police.”
It is unclear if the Taliban were behind the most recent attacks. According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban has denied involvement in these attacks, but the government is blaming the attacks on rebels who oppose educating women and girls.
At least 88 schoolgirls and teachers became ill after similar suspected poison gas attacks at schools in Kunduz Province in April 2010 and other similar attacks were reported just last week. A similar incident also occurred in May 2009, when more than 150 students were hospitalized after three separate incidents during which students became ill soon after reporting strong odors.
In Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, violence against schools that educate girls has been a key part of campaigns against the education of women. In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, more than 130 primarily all girl schools have been destroyed, allegedly by the Taliban. In total, hundreds of schools have been destroyed in Pakistan’s northwest region over the past several years. During the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which lasted until 2001, Afghan girls were forbidden to attend school. To date, more than 1,000 girls’ or co-educational schools have been bombed or burned in Afghanistan.