KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - No student showed up on Friday at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taleban’s spiritual birthplace as the day before, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.
The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school on Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said.
Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.
One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.
“Today the school is open, but there are no girls,” Qaderi said on Thursday. “Yesterday, all of the classes were full.” His school has 1,500 students.
Afghanistan’s government condemned the attack as un-Islamic and blamed it on the ‘country’s enemies,’ a typical reference to Taleban militants.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taleban spokesman, denied the insurgents were involved.
Girls were banned from schools under the rule of the Taleban that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.
Qaderi said he believed there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods.
Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people had been arrested.
He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.
The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taleban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children -mostly all boys- attended school under Taleban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.
But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.
‘They don’t want us to go to school. They don’t like education,’ said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.
‘They didn’t say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away,’ Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.
The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi’s face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother’s hand.
“I am worried that I will have scars on my face,” said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.
Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.
Ibrahimi said it was the Taleban that attacked her but then explained that she used the term to refer to anyone who was against education for women.
The United Nations called the attack ‘a hideous crime.’
US first lady Laura Bush also decried the attack.
“These cowardly and shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world,” she said in a statement. – AP