Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released their “Education under Attack” report, in which they have experts discuss the incidence of politically and ideologically motivated attacks on teachers, students and school buildings throughout the world. The report includes both a case study and a country report on Pakistan, both of which paint a stark picture of the impact of the Taliban on education in northwestern Pakistan.
Young girls and men queue separately for cooked rations in Jalala camp, Pakistan, 17 May 2009. Copyright UNHCR/H. Caux
The report tells us that between 2007 and March 2009, 108 schools were fully destroyed, an additional 64 were partially damaged, and 40,000 children, including 23,000 girls, were deprived of their education. This is occurring in the context of a ruthless campaign by the Taliban against girls’ education, which is part of a larger campaign to impose their strict social rules and norms on the people of Northwestern Pakistan. As UNESCO’s report clearly states, “The Taliban in Swat Valley, Pakistan, left no ambiguity about their intent to target girls’ education.”
The quarter of a million Sri Lankans locked up in military-run internment camps are facing a humanitarian disaster with the arrival of monsoon rains. Living situations in the overcrowded camps are likely to further deteriorate in the following weeks. The camps lack even basic sanitation facilities. During previous heavy rains, water flooded the camps and forced residents to wade through overflowing sewage.
We had heavy rains about a month ago. It was hell. The ground here cannot absorb water so it just gathers. We couldn’t even walk around. The authorities have done some work to improve drainage, but I doubt it will help much.
A recent escapee from Chettikulam camp reported to Amnesty International that some women had been forced to give birth in front of strangers without privacy:
Medical staff are only available in the camps 9 to 5. People start waiting in line for medical assistance from early morning…how can you expect a lady who is pregnant to stand in a line for hours? If the war has ended, why doesn’t the government let these people out?
The situation worsened on October 5, when a main water pipeline was turned off in Menik Farm camp. The escalation of the humanitarian situation also leads to violent tensions, both within the camp residents and between residents and the military.
I remain particularly concerned about the slow pace of identifying those in the camps who do not pose a threat to security and the lack of transparent criteria in this regard. (..) Immediate and substantial progress in restoring freedom of movement for the displaced is an imperative, if Sri Lanka is to respect the rights of its citizens and comply with its commitments and obligations under international law – Walter Kaelin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
The situation in Pakistan has escalated with the fourth militant attack in the last week occurring yesterday in Peshawar. A Punjabi faction of the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, signaling a disturbing level of increased cooperation between militant groups to the Pakistani government and its Western allies. Other attacks included a 22 hour assault on Pakistan’s army headquarters and began with the suicide bombing of a UN aid agency. In total 119 have been killed and several injured. The group has threatened more strikes across the country in advance of the army’s plans to launch a ground offensive of the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan.
In response to the deadly attacks, Pakistani jets have bombed the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan and Bajaur, another tribal agency in northwest Pakistan.