Brave Girls:

The students at the Mirwais School for Girls.

One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.
“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”


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15 comments for “Brave Girls:

  1. January 14, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Seriously, can we send these girls trophies or something? Finally education has become a priority for young women and their families, and they’re pissing off some of the scariest guys in the world to do it. Seems like the least the rest of us could do would be to send our support.

  2. January 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    These girls and women are heroes.

  3. January 14, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I will never understand why some men are so damn terrified of women having things. Intellectually, I understand why educating women is threatening, but I don’t understand it on an emotional level, that it makes a man so angry and afraid he lashes out violently. I don’t get it at all.

  4. metabonbon
    January 14, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Part of me says it’s not necessarily about girls getting an education. It’s an excuse to act out on a general simmering hatred of women. If you’re feeling particularly charitable, you can add “hatred of women who don’t know their place.” But to me this clearly falls under the “men hate you” category.

  5. January 15, 2009 at 12:26 am

    From now on I’m going to try to bitch less about how rough grad school is on me.

  6. January 15, 2009 at 5:10 am

    This is more about power than it is about the pure hatred of women. A girl’s school would have been strictly forbidden by the Taliban, and thus, the fact that they now exist is a direct insult to their former authority. They lash out this violently in defense of their own pride. I send my love to these brave girls. I wish I could tell them how beautiful they really are.

  7. Anna
    January 15, 2009 at 9:13 am

    It’s stories like this that remind me how petty my daily complaints are. These young women are heroes. I wish everybody could see how much of an inspiration they are.

  8. allison
    January 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Just. Amazing. How many kids in the U.S. would risk death to go to school? I am realizing now how privileged I was to grow up with a public education and the ability to pursue college, and now a Ph.D. And the worst thing I’ve ever had to risk is a little student loan debt. These girls are heroes.

  9. CartoonCoyote
    January 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Irony: These girls have bigger balls than the puke who hurt them. He should be reminded of that for the rest of his life.

  10. Schala
    January 16, 2009 at 8:18 am

    “Just. Amazing. How many kids in the U.S. would risk death to go to school? I am realizing now how privileged I was to grow up with a public education and the ability to pursue college, and now a Ph.D. And the worst thing I’ve ever had to risk is a little student loan debt. These girls are heroes.”

    To be fair, even in the US, students risk extreme psychological damage and suicide for a variety of reasons, but being assaulted in deadly fashion or with the intent to seriously harm, is rarely a worry.

    Not to downplay what they experience, which is pretty horrible. I’d probably homeschool myself (with books or whatever) if I was threatened that way, I doubt I’d have the courage to go back to school in such a climate (or country).

    Psychological damage is often considered lesser than physical damage. I wish psychological damage was better understood, such as that caused by bullying (maybe it wouldn’t be just brushed off then), or depression (while it is treated, people affected by it are not recognized as affected by it negatively, thus any lowering in their productivity is said to be lazyness).

    Sorry if my last paragraph is off-topic.

  11. Laura
    January 16, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Part of what’s so terrible about this is that this particular type of attack, which is particularly damaging and has irreversable long-term effects, far more so than say beating someone up (which would still be terrible but the victim would be likely to make a full recovery, plus it takes longer so there’s a greater chance of intervening) could so easily be dramatically reduced by reducing the availability of battery acid. I have worked with charities in other places working with survivors of acid attacks, and have been horrified to learn how easily available battery acid is. Controlling its availability somewhat, for example by selling it only through garages, would make a huge difference. Of course the black market would mean some would slip through, but availability would nevertheless be dramatically reduced and attacks like this could also reduce. So good work for publicising this, because the more people who know about the horrendous effects of acid attacks, the greater the chance of donors and foreign services taking up the issue and pressurising governments to do something about it.

  12. Andre
    January 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Are there any efforts afoot to arrange for surgery for Shamsia and her friends? I would gladly donate. This just makes me so angry.

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