In ten days during September 2015 more than four hundred Afghan schoolgirls in six incidents became ill from toxic gas poisonings at their schools.

Why? Because in Afghanistan some uneducated people have no respect for women and believe that education is not necessary for girls. They think it’s okay to educate boys because they will have to work to earn money, but they think the only role for girls is to marry and have babies.

These people are so enraged about girls that they will do anything to deter parents from sending their daughters to school. But this kind of thinking is against Islam and our Holy Quran, which states: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman.”

In recent years, gas poisoning incidents have been reported in girls’ schools in many provinces including Kabul, Takhar, Kunduz, Kapisa, Ghazni, Bamiyan, and others, but there were never any conclusive investigations into who was behind them.

Here are the six new incidents that news media reported in September.

Sept. 2: Fifty-three schoolgirls were poisoned in Khadija Tool Kubra School in the Injil district of Herat province.

Sept. 3: One hundred schoolgirls were poisoned in Baba Haji School in Herat city. Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman, stated that the poisoning was probably caused by inhalation of a toxic gas. When the girls entered their classes they felt giddy and were fainting. Doctors were unable to determine what they inhaled.

Sept. 5: Four teachers and thirty-two students at Abdulali Shah Tokhi School inhaled an unknown gas in their school.

Sept. 7: Thirty students from Nawen School and ten students from Abul Walied School in the Injel district were taken to the hospital because of something they inhaled at school and one of the girls, who was pregnant, miscarried.

Kohandazh News reported that in the insecure districts of Pashtoon Zarghoon and Shindand in Herat province, other threats resulted in the closing of several schools for girls.

These attacks always raise many questions and they create fear for girls and their parents about going to school, particularly when every few days they can hear the ambulances carrying students to the hospitals. No one has been arrested in any of the incidents, but there are many rumors about who was behind them.

I live in a refugee area in another country and we don’t feel safe in school either. We don’t dare go alone, so my mother or father accompanies me and my sisters to school. If it were only safer, education could progress faster. As my mother told me when she worked for village women and girls in Herat province, the girls and women many times asked her to begin literacy classes and home-based schooling for them, even though they were very busy working on the farms.

This makes me believe that women and girls are eager to become educated despite all these attacks, and despite the Taliban, girls will still go to school. Some of the girls said on the news how the obstacles make them stronger and more motivated to study hard and reach their goals. When I look to the future, I believe the education situation for girls will improve. Our society is different today than fifteen years ago. Many people realize that educated girls can have a bright future and many parents refuse to take girls out of school because of harassment.

By Zahra W., age 16