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Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 15:01 GMT
Afghan girls' schools defiant
girls at an afghan school
The taliban prohibited girls from attending school

Shiragha Kamin is a school principal with extra-curricular responsibilities. He is the head of the Deh Afghani School, in Mayda Shahr district, about an hour's drive from the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Not only does he have to oversee the return of girls to the school and their re-integration in the education system, but he also has to ensure their safety.

And that is no easy task, judging by the size of the hole in his office wall, created when someone fired a rocket into it.

There are those Afghans who do not want a relaxation of the strictures of the Taleban, even if that Islamic regime is no longer in government.

map of wardak province
Four Wardak schools have been attacked
Banning girls' attendance at school was a highpoint in the weird and inventive moral structure imposed on Afghanistan by the Taleban.

Now, there are those who want to destabilise the new government of Hamed Karzai - and attacks on schools where girls are taught is their method of choice.

Other approaches include the persecution of musicians, setting off explosives near video shops and cinemas, and fear campaigns targeting women who have cast off the burkha.

Rocket attack

In the province of Wardak, four schools have been attacked. Like Deh Afghani school, a rocket was fired at another school in Nirkh District.

And in two other villages, parts of school buildings were set alight. A grenade was left outside one mosque school and the matting and chalkboards dragged outside the building and set on fire.

In each case, letters were left explaining why the attacks were necessary. Deh Afghani's principal says the note left at his school said "stupid things".


It's our right to be here...we are helping to build Afghanistan

Fariah, student
"In the letters, they wrote that they were old Mujaheddin, who had been fighting jihad [holy war] for a long time. And they had not done that to have Americans in the country, and girls in school," explained Mr Kamin.

He said the letters were not very well printed - they were only handwritten. And the attack did not seem to have been carried out by anyone local.

Mr Kamin and the village elders are convinced that whoever launched the attacks were strangers.

Still, when we arrive to interview the girls at the school, curious villagers are being kept well away.

None of the teachers want to draw further attention to the girls' schooling among the locals. Some have been warned they should not let Westerners come and photograph their students.

Community support

The girls themselves walk miles for the chance to be taught how to read and write.

They are resolute when it comes to their commitment to their own education.

"The people who did this [the rocket attack] are uneducated," says one 11-year-old, dressed brightly in a crimson headscarf.

"It's our right to be here," says Fariah. "We are helping to build Afghanistan."

At the Deh Afghani school, both boys and girls arrive for lessons. Although both sexes have been taught at the school now for nine months, they have separate classes, and there is very little interaction between the two.

The girls and the community will fight on
One boy told me he thought it was okay that girls were at school, just as long as he did not have to sit in a classroom next to them.

According to the village school principal, there is strong support in the community for the girls to continue to be educated.

After the rocket attack, the elders of the community gathered in the village mosque. They talked together for three days.

Shiragha Kamin says: "Everyone was saying it's the right thing to do, because when they go home now, and when they talk to their young daughters, they can see that they can now write their names, and they answer questions confidently."

Mr Kamin says it will take more than rockets to deter them. "You've heard about Afghans, about how we never lose our courage.

"Before, we fought a jihad against the Soviet Union. Now we are doing a different jihad - struggling against these kinds of people who are trying to destroy our country. They will never stop us."


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31 Oct 02 | South Asia
03 Oct 02 | South Asia
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