EU seeks probe into ‘horrible and heinous’ poisoning of schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan

The European Union on Tuesday called on Taliban authorities to investigate the poisoning of primary schoolgirls in the country’s north after 77 students were hospitalized.

Two separate incidents took place in Sar-e-Pul province on Saturday and Sunday, Taliban authorities in the province said. 

Sixty schoolgirls were poisoned in Naswan-e-Kabod Aab School and 17 others were poisoned in Naswan-e-Faizabad, said the Taliban head of the provincial education department Mohammad Rahmani. He said the attacks happened at the start of classes and students were vomiting and had asthma, vertigo and headaches.

Rahmani said the department’s initial investigation showed the person who orchestrated the poisonings had a personal grudge and that a third party was paid to carry out the attacks. He has not said what kind of substance officials believe the girls were poisoned with, and local authorities have not provided updates on the attack.

The EU in a statement called the poisonings a “heinous crime that needs to be followed up by the de facto authorities,” in line with their obligations to protect the population under international law.

“Right to education is the human right of all children, everywhere. Schools need to be safe places for all children.”

Last year, a  group of female students were poisoned at Kabul University but the incident was never investigated.

Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade, including university, and women are barred from most jobs, especially in nongovernmental aid agencies, and public spaces.