Yesterday, I read this story by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.
It's a story about Afgan schoolgirls, girls whose parents have little or no education, girls who don't have electricity or running water in their homes, girls who--in many cases--walk several miles to attend classes. And when they arrive and pass into the sanctuary of the school walls, they shed their shapeless burkas like so much dead skin, smiling and laughing together in their momentary oasis.
Unfortunately, these girls are facing a more sinister roadblock on their paths to a life-altering education: intimidating, disfiguring and potentially attacks. There are roving groups of men on motorbikes, who thus far claim no group affiliation, who are spraying acid into the faces of girls on their way to school. Posters are appearing in mosques, urging parents not to let their girls go to school.
Yet the community is resisting. Students, parents and local government have come together to denounce the attacks and ensure the continuing education of Afgan girls. One girl, Shamsia, 17, badly scared from an acid attack, said that her parents told her to "keep coming to school, even if I am killed." It is difficult to imagine facing a mortal fear in one's daily pursuit of an education. It is even harder to imagine persevering against such aggression.
But these schoolgirls and this community are fully aware that if their lives, their community and their country are to improve, then they must, without question, educate themselves. They must continue to battle these small-minded and brutal individuals with everything they have. And it is clear that the most potent weapon in the Afgan arsenal is a new generation of brave and educated women. Their courage may just save their country.