By Arash Kabuli
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Aug. 01, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan parents who have sent their sons to schools in Pakistan say they're becoming increasing alarmed about the type of education their children are receiving.
Rather than serve as centers of learning, many fear that these schools and Madrasas are designed primarily to turn out a never-ending supply of suicide bombers.
One father in Kapisa province, who asked that his name not be used because he was concerned about security, described the dramatic change his 18-year-old son had undergone after one year at a school in Pakistan.
"My son is vehemently opposed to the government. He says suicide attacks are considered a superior form of martyrdom and courage in Islam, and that Muslims must wage a jihad against the Jews and their friends," he said.
Students, his son told him, were shown footage of Americans and Britons being beheaded.
"I'm not going to allow my son to go back to study in Pakistan again, because I know I will lose him," the father said.
Many other families in the province are making the same decision.
Public awareness of the issue has grown since Afghan television stations began broadcasting programs of students describing how their teachers in Pakistan groomed them to put on vests packed with explosives and detonate them once they approached vehicles belonging to international or Afghan troops.
The children said they were assured that they could escape unscathed from such attacks.
Afghans have long sent their children to Pakistan for religious education.
When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979, many of these schools help galvanize opposition to the occupation.
In subsequent years, however, they also became a breeding ground for the Taliban, and of late have encouraged their students to wage jihad against the Afghan government and its western allies.
Many Afghan families now fear their children will be caught up in an insurgent strategy of recruiting young people for suicide attacks.
One 17-year-old in Laghman province, home on vacation from a Madrasa in Peshawar, described the school's curriculum.
"We were always being told that the Jews and Christians had attacked Muslim countries. They destroy the dignity and faith of Muslims. We were shown footage of the Americans searching people's homes and killing them... or killing civilians in bombardments," he said. "They showed us Israeli massacres in Palestine. Young people, even children, were therefore prepared to wage jihad against the United States." The 17-year-old's parents said he would not be returning to Peshawar.
A representative of the Taliban in Kapisa province, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, justified the course of instruction at Madrasas in Pakistan.
"Those who say these people are being deceived are puppets of the United States. During their studies in Pakistani Madrasas, people learn the path of virtue and jihad," he said. "They come to understand the reality that human beings are guests in this world for just a few days, and that they must do something for their religion and the next life. They learn the Islamic precepts in which jihad has high status, and thus they arrive at practical action they fight for the interests of Islam, they satisfy their God, and they bring illumination to the next life." Afghan officials say they are responding to the threat posed by these schools by building more Madrasas in the country.
A spokesman for Afghanistan's education ministry, Abdul Sabur Ghofrani, said, "We have 650 Madrasas and other religious schools across the country, and this number will rise to 1,000 in the next three years." But such developments come too late for Taj Mohammad, who described what happened when he attempted to withdraw his 14-year-old son from a school in Pakistan.
"When I got to Pakistan, I stayed in the Madrasa for two or three nights. My son's classmates told me that he'd gone off to another Madrasa for some kind of competition and that he'd be back," the father said, tears rolling down his face. "On the third day, the head of the Madrasa told me that my son had been martyred in the jihad, and that I had God's blessing." Since that day, the father concluded, "I have been lost to the world."
Arash Kabuli is a reporter in Afghanistan who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a non profit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: www.iwpr.net. For information about IWPR's funding, please go to http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?top-supporters.html.