Picking on Girls

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Amanda Richeal, the team leader for Female Engagement Team 15 in Sangin District, Helmand province, and a native of Le Claire, Iowa, talks to a group of children after securing their compound during a foot patrol last summer.

Insurgents allegedly attacked a girls’ school Tuesday for the third time in a week in Afghanistan, sending about 160 students and four teachers to a local hospital in the north of the country. It’s hard to fathom how a country can pull itself into the 21st Century – heck, let’s aim for the 20th – with such deep-seated animosity toward educating half of its young people (some take the reports more seriously than others).

Such marginalization of females – women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, they can’t be schooled in Afghanistan – has consigned the Arab world to a perpetual back seat, politically and economically. Sure, progress is being made, but it’s grudging and slow. It isn’t the kind that can be accelerated with an M-16.

It’s a generational thing – just as passing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was in this country. Lifting the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the U.S. military — an insurmountable obstacle a generation ago — ended up not even being the speed bump some feared. It was merely a painted stripe on the highway.

In Afghanistan, too, progress will be made. There is a vileness associated with attacking defenseless girls and women. Why are some so threatened by educated women? Increasingly, parents want their daughters to be educated. Usually, when the Taliban destroy a school, it is rebuilt. Progress is slow, and won’t be complete until today’s young boys become young men, and know that their sisters are their equals.