For Afghan Girl, Going To School Is Act Of Bravery

Play associated audio

In Afghanistan, girls are required by law to go to school. However, many of them never do.

Death threats, acid attacks and bombings by Taliban militants and other extremists lead many parents who support female education to keep their daughters at home.

Sometimes, it's the families themselves who stand in the way. School officials in conservative communities say relatives are often more interested in marrying off their daughters or sisters than in helping them get an education.

But some girls, like 18-year-old Rahmaniya, are fighting back.

The 10th-grader in the southern city of Kandahar province says the moments she savors most in her life are those she spends learning.

Rahmaniya, whose last name is being withheld to protect her, says she didn't dare go to school until her father passed away five years ago. He had vowed to disown her if she tried to get an education.

These days, the slight girl with big brown eyes dreams of going to college to study journalism.

But she adds that it's hard to think about the future when her older brother keeps threatening to stab her to death with a knife he carries in his pocket.

"Several times he has beaten me up," she says. "He tells me, 'You go ahead and go to school, and I'll throw acid on you like the Taliban. I'll go to the Taliban, and they'll protect me if I do this in this land of infidels where girls go to school.' "

Driven Into Hiding

Rahmaniya believes her brother's anger is rooted in jealousy, since he quit school a long time ago.

Her family, like many in Kandahar, is also struggling to make ends meet, and the teen says her brother wants her to marry. In Afghanistan, dowries bring in a lot of cash for the bride's family.

"But I don't want to get married, at least not before I finish my studies," Rahmaniya says.

Her brother's insistence that she wed is something Rahmaniya says she uses against him.

She explains that when he threatens to blind or maim her, she reminds him that disfiguring her will make it impossible to find a husband.

Still, the threats and beatings have driven Rahmaniya into hiding. She moves every few days from one sympathetic relative's house to another to avoid being found by her brother.

Societal Taboos, Taliban

Last week, her mother agreed to help plan her daughter's escape to a women's shelter in Kabul so she could continue her studies in safety.

The plan fell apart when Rahmaniya's mother caved in to family pressure that her daughter marry a relative.

The mother says the man will allow Rahmaniya to attend school after they wed. But her daughter believes that's a lie and refuses to marry the relative.

Saying she feels trapped, Rahmaniya begins to cry.

"If it wasn't a sin to commit suicide, I would," she says. "Life has become very bitter."

Ehsanullah Ehsan, who is director of the Kandahar Institute of Modern Studies, where some 800 girls go to school, says Rahmaniya's case is not unique. He adds that societal taboos are oftentimes as problematic for his students as the Taliban.

"There are many other threats ... extremist threats, warlord threats, tribal lord threats, family honor threats, because still there are families in which education is an honor problem. So these women who are coming here, they are brave to come here for an education," he says.

Ehsan says that bravery has translated into a brighter future for many young women; 300 of his graduates have gotten jobs in Kandahar.

But Rahmaniya says she doesn't want to stay in Afghanistan.

She says she yearns to go abroad, but that she's found no one who can help her.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Boston Museum Exhibit Celebrates Legacy Of Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College was only open for 24 years, but it helped foment the work of several artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Cy Twombly. Now it's the subject of the first major museum retrospective at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art.

High-Sodium Warnings Hit New York City Menus

The city is the first in the nation to require a sodium warning on menu items containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more. The rule applies to chain restaurants with 15 or more locations.

World Leaders To Debate Role Of Nuclear Power At U.N. Climate Summit

NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Matthew Bunn, a nuclear and energy policy analyst and professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School, about the role nuclear power will play in the future. As world leaders meet in Paris for the U.N. climate summit, they discuss if countries are moving away or toward nuclear energy and and given safety and budget concerns, whether atomic power makes sense anymore.
WAMU 88.5

Computer Guys And Gal

Another year is coming to a close and the Computer Guys And Gal are here to discuss this year's biggest technology news, including the growth of virtual reality and the "Internet of Things."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.