160 Girls, Teachers Poisoned at School in Afghanistan

On Tuesday 160 schoolgirls and teachers were admitted to a hospital after a suspected poisoning at a school in Afghanistan's northern Takhar province -- the third such large-scale attack against female students this year.

The female students, ranging in age from 10 to 20 years old, had been poisoned in their classrooms by a contaminated spray that caused the girls to suffer from vomiting, headaches, and dizziness. The attack occurred at the Ashan Dara Girls School in Talokhan.

A similar attack occurred last week in which over 120 teachers and students were admitted to a local hospital.

The Taliban denied responsibility for last week's attacks and a spokesman told BBC News that the Taliban would punish anyone who carried out such an attack "in line with Shari'a (law)."

"The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate if Afghanistan (Taliban) are not involved in these incidences and we totally reject such allegations," the spokesman told the news agency.

"The fact that schools are being set ablaze or bombed, this could be the work of an individual, but we promise if we find the perpetrators of such incidents we surely will punish them," he added.

In April, a similar attack occurred in the Takhar province when around 170 Afghan high school aged girls were poisoned by contaminated water causing them to suffer from severe headaches and vomiting.

Officials blamed those attacks on extremist elements in Afghan society that continue to oppose to female education.

As a result of the increasing numbers of attacks this month, Afghanistan's Education Ministry has been forced to close down 550 schools over security concerns, affecting some 300,000 students in 11 provinces across the country.

In April The Christian Post spoke to Yalda Afif, 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. Afif commented on women and girls in Afghanistan facing continued violence and discrimination.

"There are many reasons why this kind of violence is happening – but in Afghanistan it is more about cultural reasons," Afif 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."