Missing piece on Taliban/education

From: edequity@phoenix.edc.org
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 14:44:47 EDT

Forwarded by Linda Purrington, Title IX Advocates,

On education in Afghanistan for girls/women; by an eyewitness Afghani
. . . We passed by a ruined building. I asked my friend what it was in
the past. "Khoshal Khan High School," she said. I did not believe it,
because I remembered it very well. If not for it's bullet perforated
signboard I would have thought she was mistaken. It really was the same
school I had seen years ago. But it was so damaged by rockets that it
was hard to believe that it was the same place. That school used to be a
place of learning and knowledge. Afghan children were trained there and
it was there that they learned about science and technology.
Unfortunately, the majority of those children are now in the deplorable
state of being refugees. Some of them beg for a loaf of bread to stay
alive, while others are suffering from mental disorders -- the gift of
continual war. I have heard that most of our youngsters in the western
provinces use opium, heroin and other narcotics to try to forget the
sorrow of the rampant barbarism. University and school students
(especially girls who have been ostracized) have a profound rancor
against the Taliban and the fundamentalists which can only be relieved
by the removal of these traitors.

I met a young girl on the bus. "I was a second year student at Kabul
Medical Institute, but a long time ago the doors of knowledge were
closed. This is a big disaster. I don't know about my future. Where can
I go? I damn the Taliban and fundamentalists," she said. I went to one
of my friend's houses. When her 12 year old daughter knew that I had
come from Pakistan, she embraced me and wanted me to take her to
Pakistan and get her into a school. Her mother burst into tears and
said, "Although my daughter is too small to leave me, nevertheless her
education is very important. Take her with you."

When I entered Merriam High School (a high school for girls), there were
about 30 families now living in the classrooms. It was the third year
since they had been displaced from their houses, due to protracted
fighting in the northern provinces. Almost all of the women had become
beggars. They were begging from people who themselves had nothing to
Their best income came from washing clothes, but is not easy. "Our
children collect sticks, wood and papers from the streets to warm the
"they said. 20,000 Afghani (20 American cents) is paid for the washing of
many pieces of clothes (it requires washing from morning to evening). A
loaf of bread costs 20,000 Afghani. Therefore, working from sunup to
sundown is not even sufficient to provide bread, never mind other
things. "Some girls who were students in this school before it had become
quarters for the 30 families, come to look at their old school. They
find comfort in seeing the classrooms, school campus and they reflect on
the wonderful memories of time spent at school. "We feel ashamed when we
see them, but there is no other way and it is not our fault. Where do we
go? Our houses and properties have been plundered or burned up. There is
no place to go and take refuge there. We are helpless. We had never
planned to become beggars." the other women said. A middle aged woman
came and said, "We experience death every day. I wish we were not alive. I
wish we died instead of enduring this gradual death. If it were not
prohibited by our religion, I would commit suicide."

The children of these refugees were begging or collecting sticks, wood
and papers just to be able to afford at least a loaf of bread to stay
alive. Knowledge and education do not have any importance for them. They
are the children of war. They were born in poverty and misery. Most of
them are not familiar with peace and comfort.

There are thousands and thousands of women who have been banned from
social activities and from working outside their houses. Only a small
number of women have the right to work outside. They are doctors and the
Taliban need them for their work. This serious state of affairs has
pulled women into begging and prostitution. Famine, poverty and starvation
found throughout Afghanistan. Meat is not available for the majority of
people. Fruit is rarely accessible. Children do not smile and are not
cheerful. The dust of war and poverty has covered their nice faces.

I visited some beggars. When I asked them about their previous life, I
found that some of them were teachers and government employees.
"Fundamentalists killed my husband. Our house and properties have been
plundered. I have three small children. I was a teacher. If not for my
children, I would kill myself," a woman who is now a beggar said. Most
of the shopkeepers and vendors have masters degrees from the university
or are people with a high level of experience in professional work. I
talked with a clothing vendor. He said," If I do not do this, I must
beg, steal or commit suicide. I was a teacher at Kabul University. I
could not envision this unfair situation. As a teacher of many years,
it was my dream to train the generation that would build the future of
our country. Nevertheless, this generation is drowning in starvation,
poverty and misery. This unfortunate generation is only familiar with
guns, blood and savagery. They feel death every moment. For them life
is meaningless. All traitors deserve to be executed publicly."
When there was fighting between the Taliban and the northern alliances,
I was in Kabul. The result of that fighting was the displacement of
thousands of people to other places, especially to Kabul City. I talked
with some families just arrving from the northern provinces. They said,
"We left our houses and properties and escaped with only the clothing
on our bodies." Some of those families were coming with a pot, cow,
donkey or some other personal property. Some of them were crying because
they did not know where the rest of their family members were or how
they were doing.. . .

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