Sick women and the stick
Taliban assault on educational courses in Kabul

By Saleema, a RAWA supporter in Kabul, July 10, 2000

Cruising in Toyota pickups belonging to the "Department of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," members of the Taliban recently shut down various educational programs, announcing this closure only by arresting, beating, and harshly treating the teachers running the courses. Interviews with these teachers revealed two central causes for this obscurantism:

1. Established and run by a husband and wife, both past teachers, a school for girls grades one through twelve had been operating in phase three of Khair Khana for more than a year. The school was officially registered with the Ministry of Education, which paid the monthly rent. Problems occurred, however, when one girl was repeatedly accosted by a number of gangsters on her way to and from school. The harassment was so troubling that the girl's family finally removed her from the school. After several days, the headmaster and an associate sent messages to the absent girl, pleading that she ignore her family and continue her education. Convinced, the girl took the headmaster's advice, only to be abducted by the rakes upon her first trip to school. Feeling a sense of machination behind the teacher's note and the girls' disappearance, her family complained to the security post. Taliban, searching for an excuse to prevent the education of young women, rushed to close the school, severely beating the teachers. Despite proof that the girls' disappearance was the doing of the errant boys and was in no way connected to the innocent teachers, the Department has assaulted hundreds of these courses in various areas of Kabul, claiming to investigate the legitimacy of the schools.

2. The Taliban received reports that teachers of some of the unofficial home-based courses, especially those teaching English, had been educating them about Christianity, encouraging students to turn away from Islam.

As these examples prove, the Taliban will work under any pretext in order to snatch the last breath of so many individual's lives, by persecuting, degrading, and insulting women. However, it is worth noting that the Department has not been successful in uprooting all of the home-based schools. While the fearful atmosphere created by the Taliban has caused courses to become more limited and has decreased the number of students to some extent, many of these schools are still teaching young Afghani's through whatever covert means necessary. Many girls in junior and senior classes have learned to conceal their books on their way to and from classes and are able to divert a Talib's attention by hiding their school things under their burqas. Except for a very few anomalies, the Taliban has been unable to completely suppress this valuable education.

Najia and Rana, teachers of one course located at Khair Khana, were imprisoned for several days and faced excruciating torture.

It is absolutely vital that women resist this degradation. Though financial problems plague the courses, the most prevalent concern is that women have no intention of surrendering to the oppression and brutality of the Taliban. For instance, in one of the evening courses at Khair Khana, a teacher not wearing her burqua was before a room full of students, when Taliban, belonging to the "Department of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" suddenly attacked them. Crying and shouting, the students immediately escaped by jumping through the windows, while their teacher remained in the classroom with the Taliban. The thugs proceeded in their rude and abusive language, demanding to know why she was not wearing a burqua. She replied: "I was with my girl-students in a classroom and I felt no compulsion to wear a burqua. You should have observed hejab and entered the room a bit more politely."

Despite the woman's bravery and courage, Taliban insulted the woman, trying to force her to close her course. But she replied fearlessly: "I am a woman and a mother of four. Who will feed my children? You want to make all women into beggars or prostitutes! But I am a teacher and I refuse to give in; I will never be a prostitute nor a beggar! If you tried one hundred times to close my course, I would reopen it every time. I need this course, for I am feeding my children with it!" Having no reasons to remain there, the Taliban left the place embarrassed.

The women taken by the Taliban are still missing. Despite investigations by the Supervising Department of Women, Intelligence Services, and the Parliament of Kabul, no signs of the female teachers have been uncovered.

Sick women and the stick

On the evening of May 16th, Nadra, a very sick young woman waited at the corner of a pharmacy for her medication, ampoule, and boiling water to be prepared. Meanwhile, two men from the "Department of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" who had been scrutinizing Nadra at length entered the pharmacy. After injecting the medication, the woman rubbed her thigh, waiting to cover it. Without any question, the thugs of the Department attacked the innocent lady, claiming that she was guilty of adultery. After beating the doctor, the Taliban took both of the innocents away. The poor woman insisted that she was absolutely sinless, but the Taliban ignored her and took her to the Department where she was promptly imprisoned.

Dost Muhammad, the owner of the Shafa medical store said: "These wicked brutes disgraced an innocent woman and defamed our doctor without any reason. I am totally bewildered and do not even know who to call for help!"

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