Founder of all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan burns students’ records to protect them from Taliban

Shabana Basij-Rasikh said that she was doing the same thing the Taliban did 20 years ago when it was last in power in Afghanistan

Arpan Rai
Monday 23 August 2021 16:39
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<p>Representative image: The school’s founder Shabana Basij-Rasikh took to Twitter and posted a video, showing the school documents set on fire in a closed furnace</p>

Representative image: The school’s founder Shabana Basij-Rasikh took to Twitter and posted a video, showing the school documents set on fire in a closed furnace

The founder of an all-girls school in Afghanistan says she has been forced to torch her students’ records in order to stop the militant group Taliban from recovering them and possibly targeting those listed, a move she described as a last resort “to protect the girls and their families”.

Tens of thousands of people are fleeing Afghanistan after the hardline religious militant group took Kabul by force, threatening a humanitarian crisis.

The school’s founder Shabana Basij-Rasikh took to Twitter and posted a video, showing the school documents set on fire in a closed furnace. The 15-second video showed sheets of paper with lists and school records catching fire before the flames engulfed them.

Sharing the video, Ms Rasikh said that she was doing something the Taliban did 20 years ago when it was last in power in Afghanistan. She said she had witnessed the destruction of documents by arson when she was a student herself.

“In March 2002, after the fall of Taliban, thousands of Afghan girls were invited to go to the nearest public school to participate in a placement test because the Taliban had burned all female students’ records to erase their existence. I was one of those girls.

“Nearly 20 years later, as the founder of the only all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan, I’m burning my students’ records not to erase them, but to protect them and their families.

“As the world focuses on the dramatic - those Afghans who are managing to get out - the fire in me to invest in the education of Afghan girls who have no way out grows brighter, stronger, and louder,” Ms Rasikh said in the series of tweets.

In a subsequent tweet, Ms Rasikh said that she and her students are safe but she is broken and devastated for them.

“My students, colleagues, and I are safe with enormous gratitude to our ever vibrant global village. The time to appropriately express my gratitude will come. But right now there are many who aren’t or increasingly don’t feel safe. I’m broken & devastated for them.”

On 15 August, the day the Taliban stormed to power by capturing the capital city Kabul, a tweet by Rasikh read: “My heart is so heavy. It feels like 36 million pounds and then some.”

The Taliban’s rule in the south Asian country is fraught with risks for women and children who are likely to face the brunt of the group’s stringent ideology. The armed group has said that on its return to power it will respect the rights of girls and women, as prescribed under the sharia law of Islam.

In its previous tenure before the US-led invasion, the Taliban cracked down on women’s rights, banned TV and music and carried out public executions by stoning.

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