November 26th, 2008
01:07 PM ET

School girl acid attack

Atia Abawi
Afghanistan Correspondent

In many countries, it is considered a right, not a privilege, to attend school. But in Afghanistan, it’s risky business.

During the Taliban's brutal five-year regime, girls here were forbidden from becoming educated. If they attempted schooling, they could be subject to a beating by the religious police, or worse.

Since the fall of the Taliban following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, one of the few achievements of the government has been offering access to education. Approximately 6 million children attend schools throughout the country, 2 million of which are girls.

But an incident last week highlights the dangers these girls once again face as a resurgent Taliban inches for control in the war-ravaged nation.

Like most kids around the world, 16-year-old Atifa and 19-year-old Shamsia were rushing to school hoping to make it on time.

"We saw two men up ahead staring at us. One was standing off and the other one was on their motorcycle. I wanted to go but there was a black object in his hand and he took it out," Atifa told us.

The object was a water pistol, filled with battery acid that the men threw on the girls. It burned through their clothes and their skin.

This attack was so brutal that even the Taliban in Afghanistan refused to claim responsibility. A Taliban spokesman told CNN that they were not responsible for the crime.

When CNN met Atifa, her dark brown hair still showed streaks of red, the color of the headscarf she was wearing during the attack. The acid had caused her clothing to melt into her hair and body.

She recounted the incident in rushed tones as her sister lay in the same room, moaning in excruciating pain.

Their mother tried pouring a liquid onto Shamsia's sealed eyes which seemed intended to moisturize so she could eventually open them. The girl shivered uncontrollably with pain.

Yesterday, the Afghan government announced the arrest of 10 men in connection with this attack.

Rahmatullah Raufi, the governor of Kandahar province where the attack took place, told CNN that the detained men admitted being paid by high-ranking Taliban officials in Pakistan to carry out the attacks.

They were paid 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,265) to attack the girls, as a way to instill fear and intimidation and eventually implement once again their zealous and erroneous interpretation of Islam.

Pakistani militants have been using Afghanistan for decades as their battleground for jihad, their holy war against western-backed forces. And if these allegations are true, it will prove a rift between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban, showing a lack of cross border communication.

The Afghan Taliban realizes that they are also fighting a PR campaign with western coalition forces: both want to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

But attacks against innocent school children under their name weaken their mission, as the Afghan people continue to suffer.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360°
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jeanette

    This is truly horrible. I hope it doesn't keep even one child from attending school. What Cowards–to pick on children to try to once again get a hold on these people.

    November 26, 2008 at 1:39 pm |
  2. Cindy

    It is so sad to hear of this horrendous attack on these two innocent girls! It's a shame that these nuts do crap like this just to try to instill fear and further their agendas. I hope that the ten men and the Taliban officials all get the utmost punishment for this.


    November 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm |

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