Sunday, December 10, 2006

Real Heroes

Two sisters living in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border received a warning from the Taliban:
It said their work went against Islam and that if they continued they would "end up facing the penalty."
The two women ignored the threat, and they and three other family members were killed.
What were they doing that was so offensive? Teaching.

This was no isolated incident. Over the past year, at least 20 educators have been killed and 198 schools have been burned down in Afghanistan. The Taliban position is that boys should only have religious education and girls shouldn't be taught at all. Their agenda is ignorance.

Last Sunday, the LA Times ran an article on the situation there (free registration or bugmenot). The article profiles teachers such as Mohammed Aref, who was gunned down in front of his students by the Taliban.
The militants are active once more across at least half of the country, including the southern province of Helmand, where Aref died in December 2005. Afghanistan's corrupt police and weak army are unable to provide much security.

Over the last year, insurgents have burned at least 146 schools, and insecurity has forced 215 others to close, the Afghan Education Ministry says. Zuhoor Afghan, an advisor to Education Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar, says about 220,000 students have quit school because they fear for their lives.

To his wife and their seven children, and the many villagers who respected him, Aref was a mujahid, a courageous man engaged in a holy struggle to defeat ignorance and hatred so Afghanistan might know peace.

"He loved teaching," said his brother, Mohammed Rafiq Mohammedi. "It was important to him because he wanted students to learn what he knew and build the nation, to work for the people."
Even in areas where the Taliban is not active, there are problems in the education system.
Across the country, schools are in crisis because of corrupt contractors, shoddy building practices and a chronic shortage of textbooks and trained teachers, said Afghan, the Education Ministry official.
Parents are understandably torn between wanting an education for their children, and fearing for their safety. Many had very high expectations when the Taliban was ousted from power and are disappointed and disillusioned.

And yet, despite the real danger of bullets and bombs, Afghanis continue to teach. Educators such as Fatima Mushtaq put education above their own comfort and safety.
When the Taliban's mullahs ruled, she ran a secret school for women. Now, as head of education for Ghazni province in central Afghanistan, she is defying the extremists' efforts to turn back the clock. And, as a woman in a deeply conservative region, she also fights entrenched sexism and sclerotic bureaucracy.
These brave men and women are working to help improve the lives of millions of Afghanistan's children.

They are real heroes.

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Blogger Kiskadee said...

Thank you for this.
I travelled through Afghanistan in 1973, on my way to India. We sprnt about 2 weeks there. It was by far one of themost fascinating countries Ive ever visited. The atmosphere was so special - and it was my first glimpse ever of women in full burkas.
It's awful to think of what the Taliban has done to this country, and I hope with all my heart that the brave struggle of menand women there will one day meet with success.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's frightening to hear these kinds of stories. Sometimes, I think the world's heading backwards.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Gillian said...

I can only hope that the work of these brave teachers brings hope.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez. I can't believe they're back in business. No, I can. I'm just sick to hear about it.

I wish there was more we could do to stop this sort of hatred for anyone who doesn't agree with their politics, beliefs, practices, what have you.

I was reading Horton Hears a Who today... "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Amen to that.

2:18 PM  

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