Opinion | A learning center bombing won’t stop Afghan girls’ education


Hearts may break, but spirits do not. So listen, murderers of Afghan women. There is steel in us, forged in fires that have burned across generations. You underestimate the strength of steel.

In Kabul on the morning of Sept. 30, nearly 400 young Afghans, primarily members of my country’s Hazara ethnic minority, were gathered inside a tutoring center to take a practice college entrance exam. They were separated by sex per Taliban-imposed restrictions, the girls in one area, the boys in another. The girls outnumbered the boys, as the Taliban’s closure of girls’ schools had made privately run centers such as this one the only places where girls could hope to continue their education.

It was a Friday. Islam’s holy day. The students were quietly taking their tests when a man walked into the girls’ section and detonated the explosives strapped to his body.

“Kabul attack kills girls with big dreams” was the headline in The Post. It’s a headline that describes both the crime and its motive. More than 50 people died that Friday morning in my native city, and almost all of them were girls for whom education was the path to becoming independent women. They had dared to dream. And for that, they died. But what they strove for lives on.

My Afghan girls’ school and I have operated in exile since the Taliban’s return, and since the day my students and I arrived safely in Rwanda last summer, I’ve made one request of the world: Don’t look away from Afghanistan.

Don’t look away from the women who rallied in the streets of Kabul the day after this bombing, calling out the Taliban’s inability to protect them and their freedoms. In response, the Taliban beat them and fired bullets to scatter them and called them prostitutes whose protests are funded by the West.

Still, “we won’t stop fighting,” one woman declared.

Don’t look away from the Afghan girls — made refugees by the Taliban — who have applied to join our school: the 14-year-old who wants to attend MIT and become a surgeon and who, in her words, admires “the tired face of a doctor.” The 15-year-old who has written 30 pages of a novel. The 17-year-old who told me in her admissions interview that if she could go anywhere in the world, “I would go back to Afghanistan. We are the new generation, and the country needs us.”

Afghanistan needs her, and so does the world. If it’s true that educated girls marry later, have fewer children and earn higher incomes — and it is — then it follows that their education brings benefits that aren’t just familial or societal, but transnational , too. Girls’ education must be regarded as a foreign policy imperative, just as it is properly regarded as a moral necessity and a basic human right.

I’m far from the only voice speaking this truth, and I know that policymakers can hear. Just this month, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Taliban leadership “involved in repressing women and girls.” It’s a start — but only a start . Other nations must follow and must act with urgency to ensure free and safe access to the classroom.

Urgency. It’s what’s lacking and what’s necessary. So many girls are waiting.

Girls including the 16-year-old who spoke to me from within Afghanistan, hoping there was some way she could attend our school. “I really have a lot of wishes,” she said. “I want to be busy serving my society where people are treated equally and respectfully. For a girl who loves education, there can’t be a bigger cruelty than to close the doors of schools in her face.”

“I am currently under the Taliban’s flag,” she said. “But even if I go under their sword, I won’t give up on my dreams.”

On Sept. 30, and in the heartsick days that followed, I read the lengthening list of names of dead Afghan girls pulled from the wreckage of their tutoring center. I was looking for this girl’s name.

In these days of pain, she fights on, a girl with big dreams. A girl of steel.

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Jorge Oliveira

https://www.linkedin.com/in/marketing-online-ireland/ https://muckrack.com/jorge_oliveira

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