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Life, death and the Taliban: War of ideas

A woman, a school and a tragically complex relationship.

KABUL — On the morning of July 9, boys and girls were walking down a narrow road in the Logar Province on their way to school just as they did every day at that time.

That’s when the large bomb packed in a timber truck pulled up at a checkpoint and detonated, killing 25 people, including 13 school children, in the worst bombing in Afghanistan in several years.

It is believed the Taliban carried out the attack in retaliation for the girls’ school that had been built in the village in the Mohammed Agha district.

News photos showed that the crater left by the blast cracked the asphalt in the shape of an enormous spider’s web. Amid the wreckage of the truck and other vehicles destroyed in the enormous explosion there were blown-apart student backpacks. Pages torn from school books were scattered in the rubble.

Education is on the frontline of the war in Afghanistan.

Almost daily, girls’ schools are burned and bombed and teachers, principals, students and their families receive what are known as “night letters,” Islamic decrees of death issued by the Taliban and pasted on homes and the walls of villages in the dead of night.

In just two years, more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and more than 350 in Pakistan have been bombed, burned or shut down, according to the education ministries in both countries. Eighty percent of those targeted were girls’ schools.

In the Helmand Province in the south of Afghanistan, where the Taliban is effectively in control of most of the province, 75 of the 228 schools have been shut down by Taliban militias that disapprove of the secular teaching and the idea of girls receiving an education.

There are indeed too many bombings and too many funerals for school kids risking their lives in what is literally a war of ideas.

But the July 9 bombing in Logar and the devastating effect the deaths of 13 elementary-school-age boys has had on the village where it happened offers a microcosm of just how bad things are in Afghanistan.

The story really begins on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.