Taliban groups operating in Pakistan are stepping up their attacks aimed at keeping girls from receiving a “Western” education. Last month, a group of girls in a college van in the city of Parachinar were attacked with acid, which left at least two of the victims with severe burns on their faces, according to one of the treating physicians.
In a series of pamphlets distributed around the town after the attack, the Taliban claimed responsibility and warned that attacks against women seeking an education will continue. Local Taliban leader Qari Muhavia warned that the group will not stand for women getting a “Western education,” something that is forbidden by Islamic law as interpreted by the fundamentalist group. In a phone call with CNN, Muhavia added that any women seeking out a university education will be targeted for similar treatment so that they might be ashamed to ever unveil their faces.
This is the second high-profile Taliban attack in Pakistan, coming weeks after a gunman in Swat Valley shot and wounded Malala Yousufzai, a blogger and activist for women’s education in the Arab world. Malala is currently recovering in a hospital in Britain while another victim of the attack remains hospitalized in her home country.
Shahab Uddin, a local government official from Kurram Agency in Pakistan’s northern tribal belt, said the acid attack was the latest method used to terrorize young girls and deter them from going to school.
Fifteen students, boys and girls, from Kohat University were on their way home to Parachinar when unknown “extremists” stopped the vehicle and threw acid at the girls and shot one of the boys, according to Uddin. Two girls, Zahida and Nabila, and one more boy had suffered burns, Uddin said, while Mohammad Ali, a fourth boy, was the student who was shot.
Uddin added that while girls who were doused with acid are currently out of physical danger, their faces were “badly scarred.”
The attacker in the most recent attack fired on the van after throwing acid. The local hospital confirmed that four victims of the attack were brought in for treatment, three from acid burns and one from a gunshot wound.
“We are all graduate students studying in the master’s program, and we were coming back home after taking our exams,” one of the girls who was targeted told CNN under condition of anonymity.
“We don’t know who the attackers were, but when our vehicle reached Doranai they stopped us and threw acid on our faces … now we are scared of going back to our studies,” said another girl, who also asked not to be named because she didn’t have permission from her family to speak.