Nearly 80 primary schoolgirls believed poisoned in Afghanistan

The Guardian

Associated Press

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Nearly 80 girls were poisoned and hospitalised in two separate attacks at their primary schools in northern Afghanistan, a local education official said on Sunday.

He said the person who orchestrated the poisoning had a personal grudge but did not elaborate. The attacks took place in Sar-e-Pul province over Saturday and Sunday.

It is thought to be the first time this kind of assault has happened since the Taliban swept to power in August 2021 and began their crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade, including university, and women are barred from most jobs and public spaces.

The poisonings happened in Sangcharak district, said Mohammad Rahmani, who heads the provincial education department. He said 60 students were poisoned in Naswan-e-Kabod Aab school and 17 others poisoned in Naswan-e-Faizabad school.

“Both primary schools are near to each other and were targeted one after the other,” he told the Associated Press. “We shifted the students to hospital and now they are all fine.”

The department’s investigation is ongoing and initial inquiries show that someone with a grudge paid a third party to carry out the attacks, Rahmani said.

He gave no information on how the girls were poisoned or the nature of their injuries. Rahmani did not give their ages but said they were in grades one to six.

Neighbouring Iran has been rocked by a wave of poisonings, mostly in girls’ schools, dating back to November last year. Thousands of students said they were sickened by noxious fumes in the incidents. But there has been no word on who might be behind the incidents or what, if any, chemicals were used.

Nearly 80 primary schoolgirls believed poisoned in Afghanistan