Kabul causes a setback for Afghan women seeking education against the odds According to Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the entrance of Mohammad Ali Jinah Hospital, following a suicide attack at a tutoring center, in the Dasht-e-Barchi district in western Kabul, Afghanistan September 30, 2022. REUTERS/Sayed Ramin / File Photo

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield

KABUL (Reuters) – 19-year-old Raihana, who wants to become a doctor, has studied until midnight in recent weeks for Afghanistan’s university entrance exam, an opportunity for women to advance their education even when they face increasing restrictions from the Taliban government.

Her painstaking preparations came to an end on Friday when a suicide attacker detonated his explosives during a practice exam in the girls’ section in a packed room at the Academy. Kaaj Education, a tutoring center in the capital, Kabul.

Raihana’s father, a shop owner, rushed her to the hospital but she did not survive.

“She always said, ‘If you have an opportunity, you shouldn’t miss it, and you have to give it your best shot.” But she didn’t know she was going to be a martyr,” said her aunt Khatera, who asked not to use her full name for fear of reprisal.

Young women like Raihana, denied the chance to attend a standard high school under the Islamic Taliban, who took power a year ago, include many of the victims of the explosion at the private center.

Neighbors whose family members, friends and neighbors have been killed, injured and traumatized have described to Reuters a violent setback for young women seeking a marriage. education against difficulties that are already difficult.

The blast hit the West Kabul area, home to many people, such as Raihana, from the Hazara minority, mainly Shi’ite Muslims in Afghanistan, with Sunnis making up the majority. Hazaras have been targeted in attacks launched by Islamic State and other groups in the past.

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday’s explosion.

“Our last hope is educational institutions,” said Sakina Nazari, a 25-year-old resident and former Kaaj school student whose family friend was seriously injured in the attack.

Girls’ high schools have been closed in most provinces, including Kabul, since the Taliban took power in August 2021. The leadership has curtailed its promise to open all schools. study in March.

Tutoring centers like Kaaj have provided a lifeline for girls who want to pursue higher education and have the opportunity to enter universities, where women are still allowed to study, even though they face many restrictions and limitations. growing economic challenges.

Male students were also sitting for Friday’s mock exam, but according to a Taliban source and a witness, the attacker went to an area of ​​the classroom where the young girls sat separately from their male friends. , causing high female student casualties.

“Young women from Afghanistan’s Hazara Shia community are believed to account for (the majority) of the more than 60 killed and wounded,” the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement. “Those responsible must face justice. The Taliban must fulfill their duty to ensure the safety of all Afghans.”

The UN mission said at least 35 people were killed and 82 injured. Police have confirmed 19 people were killed and 27 injured, but medics and Taliban sources say the toll is higher and many of the injured are in serious condition.

Taliban officials condemned the attack, saying the group would find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

The Hazara community has been the target of a series of attacks, some by Islamic State, including under the Republic that the Taliban toppled.

“This is not the last time and this is not the first time,” said Sakina Yousufi, a volunteer education campaigner from the region. Many families, many families with modest backgrounds, who have devoted everything to educating their children during the country’s economic crisis, want their daughters to be educated but become afraid, she said.

“Many people are afraid to send their children, their daughters to a course (private education) or university,” she said. “There was a big challenge going to school… and now there’s only more of a challenge.”

Raihana’s aunt said the family swore that all children, including her sister Raihana, would go to school to avenge her death.

“They want to stop us from learning with such actions and killings, but they will never stop us,” she said.


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