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Saturday: A little thing for the girls

Braving acid to study algebra

Braving acid to study algebra

Late last year, a group of Afghani girls were attacked on their way to school. At least one was so badly burned she had to be flown to India for treatment. The attackers were arrested and are in jail. You’d think that would be the end of it but the acid throwers and their supporters are still sending threats to the students from their jail cells promising to exact vengeance if any of the arrested are punished.

The principal of the school, Qaderi, has been partially successful in getting the 1500 female students to return to class by promising them transportation and security. So far, the students have returned but the buses and protection haven’t materialized and Qaderi is getting worried.

The Bushies made Afghanistan promises they did not intend to keep. Like many other projects the Bushies took up, they did a half assed job and left the locals fend for themselves. The world is full of hurts and injustices and the United States is just now starting to feel what that is going to be like with the deepening recession. But we are incredibly lucky that if an American girl wants to attend school. even if that school eventually ignores her and gives her a substandard education compared to boys, she has the means to get to its stingy-assed doors in one piece.

Sexism costs. In Afghanistan, it has been very costly as the years of the Taliban has reduced half of the population to a state of illiteracy. If we ever hope to have a stable, prosperous Afghanistan, where reason and education trump superstition and anachronistic tradition, it will require a literate population and the education of girls is critical to this goal.

I’m sure that Hillary and Richard Holbrooke know this. They undoubtably have a lot on their plates right now and in the whole scheme of things, the fate of 1500 girls may be overlooked. But it is the small bonds we form that make all the difference, like mending the tears in a complicated lace. It may take awhile to see that the fragments, when joined together, make a cohesive pattern. We have to start somewhere. Let’s start with some girls.  Their determination to get an education in spite of Taliban threat is an act of defiance and resistance.  If Afghanistan is to be successful at repelling the advances of the Taliban it will be because these girls had the courage to not back down and, as a result, their commuinity had the courage to not cooperate with the Taliban in dragging the country backwards once again.

Here’s a bit of history for those of you who remember the 80’s National Georgraphic cover picture of the beautiful Afghan girl.  The magazine went in search of her shortly after we invaded Afghanistan.  What happened to this promising Pashtun girl who was a learning her letters in a  refugee camp in Pakistan?  This is her story.