When it comes to the struggle for women to obtain educations in countries that oppose the very idea of it, the lengths that people will go to on either side are shocking. According to local officials near the Bibi Maryam school in Taluqan, Afghanistan’s Takhar province’s capital, as many as 74 female Afghan students may have been poisoned after smelling gas in what is likely an attack on girls being educated.

The schoolgirls were brought to hospital as a result of the potential attack. Some were released soon after being treatment, but others remain in critical condition — an enormous reminder that women who question not receiving any form of respect nor equal treatment could potentially face awful consequences (which I can only assume was the perpetrators’ hope). We’ll know soon just what happened, according to Dr. Jamil Frotan, head of the hospital the victims are staying at:

“We have already sent samples of their blood to the Ministry of Public Health and it will soon become clear what the reason for their illness was.”

Sadly, this is not a one-time event. In fact, the poisoning of schoolgirls is apparently growing in popularity among misogynists who wish nothing more than to see all women in subservient roles, regardless of desire, content or free will. There were more than four poisoning incidents in Takhar between May and June last year alone. The idea of attending school and beng actually poisoned as a result is incredibly distressing; the fact that it is so common, it’s occurring four times a month is terrifying.

As a small glimmer of hope amid all of this: the Takhar governor’s spokesman Sulaiman Moradi blamed “enemies of the government and the country” and stated that it was to prevent females from going to school. Obviously, his statement isn’t the thumbs-up part; it’s the way that he actually addressed such an awful occurrence and didn’t simply try to ignore it, disregard it or pretend it was for another motive besides keep women from being educated. Seeing a politician be more honest than most is relieving, particularly when considering millions of other human beings are looking to him as a leader.

Yes, the lengths that these sexist, backwards ultra-conservatives will go to in order to prevent women from learning is horrifying. But we must remember, respect and celebrate the lengths that girls like these 74, as well as individuals such as Malala Yousafzai, who are living proof that women across the globe will not accept the systematic exclusion of their gender from education.

Photo: Lizette Potgieter / Shutterstock.com