On 23 May, class after class fell ill. By the end of the week, more than 40 were sick, and the school closed. Deliberate poisoning of the school water pump was suspected.
“First one or two of the girls was sick, then more,” said Naziah, who hasn’t reached her teens and wants to become a doctor one day.
All summer long, local and international television channels have broadcast updates of the suspected attacks. Girls fell sick in other provinces too – Khost, Bamiyan and Nangarhar.
At times local officials have given conflicting information – that the sickness was caused by poisons, then blaming mass hysteria. The girls usually left hospital within hours. None has died.
By early June, 14 suspects had been arrested and transferred to a prison in Kabul, run by the Afghan intelligence agency, the NDS.
One suspect, Najibullah, a school teacher himself, told me he gave two bottles of poison and 50,000 Afghanis ($1,000) to two girls, to use. One of the bottles was used.
Tip: Fortean Times
This situation remains confused. The evidence is not pointing to an obvious cause. It is obvious that there are some who object to the schooling of girls. But, even with “suspects”, it’s not clear if they would resorted to poisoning. This is a stressful environment. The stress alone may account for some of the anxiety and illness.