According to a study by UNICEF, about half of Afghan children between ages 7 and 17 are not in school, 60 per cent of that group being girls. However, these statistics did not stop Breshna Musazai from exercising her right to education. Breshna, who was shot in the leg by Taliban assailants in 2016, graduated with a law degree defying all odds. 

Fought polio and bullets to a degree

Last month, 28-year-old Breshna was one of the 139 students who received bachelor’s degrees at the American University of Afghanistan, Kabul. She overcame the odds despite being paralysed by polio in one leg and shot by assailants in the other. Breshna’s father, Saleh Mohammad Malang, always supported her. Also, given the obstacles for girls in attaining higher education,  in the region, her perseverance and strength are commendable.

Musazai attended high school and college in Pakistan, her family moved there before she was born. Breshna also learned English and computer skills. After they returned to Afghanistan in 2011, she began studying law at American University. Now that she’s done with bachelors, she plans to seek a master’s degree in law or human rights in the future. 

Shooting at American University of Afghanistan in 2016

Partly funded by US aid, the not-for-profit AUAF had grown to accommodate a large number of students. It has been offering some of the country’s most respected degrees. On August 24, 2016, Taliban assailants entered the campus shooting their way in. Breshna, who entered the campus mosque for evening prayers, was barefoot and slowed due to paralysis in one leg. She struggled to reach the nearest building while other students hid in classrooms.

A rebel wearing a police uniform shot her in the leg, in a hallway. She fell and pretended to be dead. He shot her again in the foot. Despite the pain, she did not move for hours. Finally, around midnight, a police officer entered the building and began firing blindly in the dark hallway. The bullets passed directly above where she lay.

Her one leg was broken and two of her toes had been shot off. An American trustee of the university, John Alexander, who was also a surgeon at a hospital in Dallas, sponsored her trip there for medical treatment. She returned home after six months. Her fiance, who had accompanied her to the United States, decided to move to Canada and asked her to join him. She denied and decided to stay in Afghanistan

Many on social media compared her to Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who was shot by Taliban attackers in 2012. Malala, later, went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and is currently studying at the Oxford University.

The fight for education

In Afghanistan, many girls’ schools are closed in areas which are under the Taliban. According to reports, about 80 girls’ schools closed last week in the eastern Nangahar province after the ISIS announced it would attack schools. Even in government-controlled areas, a very low percentage of girls go to college after high school. Many conservative families do not allow their daughters to remain in school after puberty and arrange marriages for them.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates among women. However, there are also an increasing number of girls such as Breshna pursuing education despite threats and social restrictions.

Photo Credit: Twitter

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Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

 

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