(Photo: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)
Around 150 Afghan high school aged girls were poisoned on Tuesday in northern Afghanistan in what many suspect is an attack on females seeking education.
The schoolgirls were poisoned by contaminated water in Afghanistan's northern Takhar province, causing them to suffer from severe headaches and vomiting.
Some of the affected students remain in critical condition over the poisoning.
"We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls' education or irresponsible armed individuals," Jan Mohammad, spokesman for Afghanistan's education department in the northern province, told Reuters.
In the past, insurgency groups have been responsible for other attacks on female education, including acid attacks on girls going to school, as well as attacks on educational institutions and teachers. A majority of these attacks occur in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where Taliban insurgents maintain a strong foothold.
Although the human rights situation for Afghan women and girls has seen some improvement since the fall of the Taliban, women and girls in the country continue to live under precarious conditions and are often under threat of attack or abuse for exercising their rights.
Under the Taliban women and girls were barred from virtually all rights including education.
Today, although the situation has improved, women and girls in Afghanistan continue to be treated in an unequal manner with intrinsic rights violated by social, political, and economic institutions, as outlined in a new report released by Human Rights Watch.
The human rights organization released a report late last month detailing the condition of women and girls in Afghanistan's female detention centers.
According to the report, the "crimes" that send women and girls into detention centers, often for years at a time, include fleeing a situation of domestic violence or being the victim of rape.
"Some women and girls have been convicted of zina, sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution," the report reads.
The Christian Post recently spoke to Yalda Atif, a case manager for the New York and Kabul-based Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a human rights organization that advocates and offers programmatic support to enhance the rights of women in the country, about why women and girls in the country continue to face violence, discrimination, and unfair treatment.
"There are many reasons why this kind of violence is happening – but in Afghanistan it is more about cultural reasons," Atif told CP.
"The situation is getting worse than before. You see violence is happening more and more every day," the caseworker said. "But there is only one reason that the violence persists and that is because it is hard to bring people out of that culture."
Although Atif told CP that WAW has "seen a lot of changes" towards women in Afghanistan the organization worries that an increasingly un-invested international community challenges the future of rights for women and girls in the country.
"If the U.S. leaves, the situation (for women) will get worse, " Atif said. "If the U.S. is out, the Taliban will come out and take over all of Afghanistan and the situation will only get worse."