For a few years now we’ve been treated to regular reports of mass poisonings at girl’s schools in Afghanistan affecting hundreds of girls, always blamed on the Taliban, which have been bolstered by the confessions of supposed Taliban conspirators aired on Afghan TV. But as Mattheiu Aikens details there have never been any toxins found in any tests, the affected girls don’t show the classic signs of poisoning and those confessions – including those of two teen girls – were gained by physical abuse and psychological torture. Even Afghan medics think the symptoms are those of ”œmass psychogenic illness.”, psychological in nature, and the standard treatments of the affected girls include saline drips and placebo packets of sugar and vitamins.
Seema Gul’s mother managed to smuggle in a cellphone, hidden in her infant daughter’s diaper, and she surreptitiously used it to record the schoolgirl’s account of her interrogation. The girl wept as she told how her interrogator bullied her into making a false confession. ”œShe took my hair and slapped my face,” the girl says in the recording. She tells of the interrogator slamming her head against a table and stomping on her foot with high heels. The abuse left marks that were visible the next day, the family says. The interrogator promised far worse, Seema Gul told them. ”œShe said: ”˜I’ll bring the Americans. You’re a small girl. I’ll put them on you, and they’ll rape you.’”
Seema Gul finally broke down and confessed in the face of her interrogator’s threats and promises. ”œShe told me: ”˜Even if you haven’t done this, say a lie, and I’ll release you and take you home. I’ve released many other girls and helped them,’” the girl says on the recording. ”œMy head was spinning. I don’t know what I said.” Human-rights officials who have interviewed Seema Gul and Shukria in jail say both girls have made similar allegations of abuse, and they say the stories sound credible.
… ”œThey [Afghan politicians and bureaucrats] went beyond the pale, using schoolgirls,” said one international official familiar with the case. ”œMy fear is that if they get away with this, they’ll keep using the poisonings issue all over the country. It’s brilliant politics, really.”
There’s no denying that it’s effective politics. Despite Taliban leaders’ vehement denials of any school poisonings, some Taliban fighters in the province are said to believe the videotaped confessions and consider themselves disgraced. ”œThey’re saying, ”˜We’ve lost our name because of this,’” a village elder says.
This is only a foretaste of what’s to come, though. Afghanistan after the bulk of ISAF troops withdraw is gfoing to get nasty very quickly and the elite in power will milk their propaganda connections to the West for all they are worth. That’s not to say we should stay, however. The mess was and is going to happen no matter how quickly we leave or how long we stay.