A schoolgirl attending up to primary grade classes sits in a classroom at the start of the new academic year in Kabul, Afghanistan, 25 March 2023. EFE-EPAFILE/SAMIULLAH POPAL

Poisoned Afghan schoolgirls return home, condemnations pour in

Brussels/Kabul, June 6 (EFE).- Most of the Afghan schoolgirls poisoned in northern Afghanistan over the weekend have now returned to their homes.

They were treated in the provincial hospital of the Sar-e-Pul region where the crimes took place, even as international bodies on Wednesday condemned the incident and expressed concern over girls’ safety in the country.

“Almost all of the poisoned students and teachers have returned to their homes after treatment, only a few of them have remained in the hospital, while their health condition is reported well,” Mufti Ameer Sari Puli – the director of culture and information for the province – told EFE.

Over a hundred persons including 89 students, 8 teachers, 2 janitors, and a parent were poisoned across two primary girls’ schools in the Sancharak district of Sar-e-Pul province in two separate incidents on Saturday and Sunday.

Provincial police spokesperson Din Mohammad Nazari told EFE that as per the initial probe, the perpetrators of the crime entered the school at night and “sprayed poison in the classrooms.”

“So far the perpetrators have not been arrested, efforts are on,” he added.

Meanwhile condemnations kept pouring in from international bodies and rights groups as the news has sent shockwaves across the world.

The European Union on Tuesday denounced the poisoning as “a heinous crime” and called on the Taliban government to protect the schools.

“This is a heinous crime that needs to be followed up by the de facto authorities, as per their obligations under international law to protect the population,” Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Union External Action Service, said in a statement.

She insisted that the right to education was a human right of all children, everywhere.

UNICEF in a series of tweets also expressed concern over the incidents and added that “schools should be havens of safety where children learn free from fear. Women should be able to work without endangering their lives”.

The UN body called on the Taliban government “to investigate this incident thoroughly, to do everything possible to keep girls and women safe and if there is foul play, to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The incidents come at a time when women’s secondary and university education remains banned in Afghanistan, as part of the reimposition of strict restrictions on women by the Taliban since they came to power in August 2021.

The restrictions include mandatory veils, gender segregation at public places and the need to be accompanied by a male family member on long journeys.

In December last year, the fundamentalists imposed a ban on women working in non-governmental organizations, which was harshly condemned by the international community, fearing that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will worsen.

Over the last two years, the Taliban have been reinstating the oppressive norms of their previous regime based on a rigid interpretation of Islamic law and their strict social code known as Pashtunwali. EFE