Roughly 88 schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan have been poisoned, raising fears that the Taliban, which holds sway over the region, is sickening girls to keep them from getting an education. Prior to 2001, when U.S. forces stripped power over Afghanistan from the Taliban, girls were forbidden from attending school.
While none of the girls thus far has died, according to Adnan Khan, a journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan, the attacks point to a problem that persists in part because of Islamic culture:
The root of the problem lies not in any one militant group, but in a broader and persistent aversion to girls' education among some segments of Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as the vast majority of the Taliban. Culturally, the Taliban's rigid interpretation of Islam, including the banning of education for girls, is part and parcel of Pashtun society.
A post on Care2's Protect Women's Rights blog details previous efforts over the past decade to keep girls from attending school in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia:
[E]ducation provides a girl with independence; the ability to read and write allows her to communicate with people outside of her own family, and to learn and reason. And it seems there is nothing that terrifies those who need to dominate and subjugate woman than a girl who might be able to have some semblance of independence.