Harassment forces Afghan girls out of school

Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:03pm EST
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By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Every day, as they walked to school, Maryam Mansoor and her sister ran a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment by youths armed with knives.

"A lot of my classmates and other female students don't come to school anymore because they fear the boys' harassment and kidnappings," said Maryam, 18, who finally quit school at her worried father's behest.

From acid attacks, murder, torching of schools and sexual assault, violence against female students is dashing the dreams of thousands of Afghan girls and women who are thirsty for an education that may help rejuvenate the fractured economy and society of their war-torn country.

"I like to go to school and later I want to go to university to be a doctor or someone important in the future, but I don't want to make my family upset because of my education. Whatever my father has decided is right," Maryam sighed despairingly.

In villages, and particularly in the deeply conservative south, the Taliban have burned down schools, killed female students and teachers and attacked schoolgirls by throwing acid in their faces.

In relatively safer and less conservative Kabul, girls are facing abuse, sexual harassment and kidnappings.

"The security situation is worsening everyday. In spite of all the problems, I continued to let them go to school but now I feel like things are getting worse," said Maryam's father Mohammad, who owns a fruit shop in Kabul.

"I am not against my girls completing their education, but their safety is more important ... I don't want them to study outside any more," said Mohammad, who brought his family back to Afghanistan from Iran about two years ago.   Continued...

<p>Shamsia, 17, victim of an acid attack by the Taliban, is visited by her friends at a hospital in Kabul in this November 15, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/Files</p>