Madam Secretary

Clinton decries poison-gas attacks on Afghan schoolchildren

It’s absolutely deplorable that anyone would poison innocent children just trying to get an education, but it appears to be happening in Afghanistan, with children — especially girls — becoming poisoned at school by toxic gases over the past two years. Blood tests have found toxic levels of organophosphates in victims of 10 mass poisonings, ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

It’s absolutely deplorable that anyone would poison innocent children just trying to get an education, but it appears to be happening in Afghanistan, with children — especially girls — becoming poisoned at school by toxic gases over the past two years. Blood tests have found toxic levels of organophosphates in victims of 10 mass poisonings, the New York Times reported Aug. 31. Organophosphates are found in herbicides and insecticides and are used in the development of chemical weapons, such as the nerve gases VX and sarin.

Just last Wednesday, Aug. 25, another gas poisoning occurred at a girls school Kabul, and dozens of girls and teachers had to be taken to the hospital, as seen in the photo above and video below. These poisonings are particularly tragic because as humanitarian Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame puts it, education promotes peace "one school at a time." With every girl who can’t learn to read and every school that is attacked, Afghanistan remains one giant step farther from peace.

Details — whether all the poisonings were deliberate and how the gases were delivered — are still under investigation, but Secretary Clinton, an unflagging advocate for the empowerment of girls and women, has condemned these disturbing attacks through the following statement, issued Aug. 31:

The United States is deeply concerned by the recent poisonings of Afghan school children in Kabul. While details of these attacks are still being verified, Afghan schools, teachers, and students, particularly girls, are regularly targeted by anti-government elements seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and undermine progress. We condemn such attacks and are working with the Afghan government to address this important issue and prevent further incidents from occurring.

Afghanistan and the United States, together with 40 other co-sponsors, presented a joint resolution to the Human Rights Council that was adopted by consensus in June concerning attacks on innocent students, particularly girls, in Afghanistan. We urge the international community to continue their support for the Government of Afghanistan in combating repression and violence against girls seeking an education, and in bringing to justice those responsible for these appalling attacks.

Our deepest sympathies are with the families of the victims, and we assure the government and all the people of Afghanistan that the United States will stand by you as you continue working to bring peace and stability to your country.

Below is an Al Jazeera video about the gas attacks:

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. @pjaroonFP

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