Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) from CNN website, May 29, 2012
A hospital in northern Afghanistan admitted 160 schoolgirls Tuesday after they were poisoned, a Takhar province police official said.
Their classrooms might have been sprayed with a toxic material before the girls entered, police spokesman Khalilullah Aseer said. He blamed the Taliban.
The incident, the second in a week's time, was reported at the Aahan Dara Girls School in Taluqan, the provincial capital.
The girls, ages 10 to 20, complained of headaches, dizziness and vomiting before being taken to the hospital, said Hafizullah Safi, director of the provincial health department.
More than half of them were discharged within a few hours of receiving treatment, Safi said. The health department collected blood samples and sent them to Kabul for testing.
Last week, more than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to a hospital after a similar suspected poisoning.
"The Afghan people know that the terrorists and the Taliban are doing these things to threaten girls and stop them going to school," Aseer said last week. "That's something we and the people believe. Now we are implementing democracy in Afghanistan and we want girls to be educated, but the government's enemies don't want this."
But earlier this week, the Taliban denied responsibility, instead blaming U.S. and NATO forces for the poisonings in an attempt to "defame" the insurgent group.
Taliban tightens grip on Afghan schools
There have been several instances of girls being poisoned in schools in recent years.
In April, also in Takhar province, more than 170 women and girls were hospitalized after drinking apparently poisoned well water at a school. Local health officials blamed the acts on extremists opposed to women's education.
While nearly all the incidents involve girls, earlier this month, nearly 400 boys at a school in Khost province fell ill after drinking water from a well that a health official said may have been poisoned.
The Taliban recently demanded the closure of schools in two eastern provinces. In Ghazni, the school closure was in retaliation for the government's ban on motorbikes often used by insurgents. People in Wardak said the Taliban has been a little more lenient and has allowed schools to open late after making changes to the curriculum.
Tortured Afghan teen: 'The same should be done' to attackers
The battle indicates broader fears about Afghanistan's future amid the drawdown of U.S. troops in the country.
Are children, and especially girls, to be the hostages in the immediate future conflicts across the globe?
There were some 45 children murdered in Syria just this weekend, along with at least 100 adults
Have we reached a new, lower and more despicable stage in human history when war includes targetting children because they seek to learn? Is the world, by default, going to grant immunity to those who perpetrate these war crimes? Kofi Annan, bless his heart, stands before a microphone in Damascus, following the massacre in Syria, and the unrevalling of the peace accord he negotiated, and tells the world, "Those responsible must be held to account!"
And we all know that will never happen. Just as those Taliban responsible for the poisoning of hundreds of young women will never be found let alone prosecuted.
Have we grown numb to these atrocities? Have we given up hope that we can and will create a world in which children everywhere can receive an education in peace and security?
Have we merely chalked these stories up to another "incident" in an already bloody and complex conflict, "occupation" the Taliban would call it, and turned to our own affairs, knowing or believing that there is nothing we can do to stop this insanity?
Are we, as detailed on a recent NPR, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, entered a time when war no longer resembles anything we formerly knew as war, popping up at any time, in any place, in a random, but nevertheless highly co-ordinated, if secret, offensive by terrorists bent on destroying the western way of life?
Are we watching and reading about some network of enemies, including Iran, Syria, North Korea, the Taliban and Pakistan, possibly also including the Karzai government in Afghanistan all of whom are in some kind of loose league in opposition to what we know as 'western civilization' in order to replace it with a brand of their own loosely referred to as some form of Islamic state?
Clearly, the countries listed, (backed often by both Russia and China) are not interested in complying with accepted and agreed to conditions for conducting conflict. They are more interested in destablizing whatever seems to them to be a sign of "western liberalism" including the formal education of women.
And our collective capacity to confront so varied, and so rich and so armed and so determined a group of enemies, loosely working under a common umbrella, without actually declaring a formal war against NATO or the west, or Israel...seem disorganized at worst and uneven at best.
We seem to take a few steps forward, and then more steps backward.
We seem to have decided on a date for withdrawal, likely more as a political compromise, in aid of a sitting president who does not want to campaign with another albatross around his neck, when the economy is larger than a single such albatross. And yet, will these heinous, and cowardly and sinister attacks on innocent women and young girls continue and even increase in frequency and severity after our departure?
They might...and once again with impunity...under cover of darkness, secrecy, disorganized security facilites, and some counter-intuitive political will to modernize.
The evil we name and confront is paling in comparison to the evil we barely recognize and barely acknowledge. And that pattern, dear reader, constitutes an extremely slippery slope, from which there may be no escape.