Terrorism and Education

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Updated: Jun 26, 2021
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Terrorism and Education essay

“Education is a key component to any well-rounded society. A diverse set of life experiences in conjunction with education is the best way to ensure a society will have the most well-thought-out and dynamic policies. Unfortunately, in many countries, about half the population isn’t given equal access to education, resulting in leaders with a narrower range of life experience, and the societies in which they serve will suffer as a result. Women are often not given the same educational opportunities as their male counterparts, and countries operating under a strict patriarchy suffer the most. In particular, many conservative countries in the Middle East and Africa disenfranchise women at an unacceptable rate. Countries ravaged by terrorism also experience a lower rates of female education. Keeping with the theme of Islamic politics, I would like to know, how does Islamic political extremism and terrorism impact women’s access to education in the Middle East and Africa?

Education is a basic human right, right along with food, water, and shelter. Article 26 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists education as a fundamental right. Unfortunately for many girls, laws put in place by their own governments hold them back from educational opportunities. Many countries have sexist laws in place that prevent women from seeking an education. In Saudi Arabia women are required to have “male guardianship” from birth until death, basically being treated as a minor their whole life. This is particularly problematic when it comes to marriage. Women are not allowed to marry in Saudi Arabia without a male guardian’s permission. There is also no minimum marriage age, so child marriages do occur. If a girl is married off, her chances of being able to seek out an education are abimssmal.

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Afghanistan is another country with serious barriers to women’s education. While they promised to make girls’ education a top priority in 2001, about two-thirds of girls in the country don’t go to school. There are many reasons for this. The funding just isn’t given for the necessary infrastructure; many schools teach children outside or in canvas tents, exposed to heat. There are also often not schools in every town and village. By the time a girl would make it to school in the next town over, the school day would be nearly over. Another major reason behind this is fear of sexual assault. Some parents may let their daughters go to school until they start to reach puberty, usually between the ages of ten to twelve, and then they pull them out. Most teachers in Afghanistan are male, which tends to be a concern for conservative parents, and many schools are outdoors, as stated above, and parents are worried about daughters being kidnapped, assaulted, or targeted by acid attacks. As a result, they just don’t allow their daughters to go to school.

Some may wonder why women in these patriarchal regions don’t just protest or demand educational opportunities. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, women face violence from the state that prevents them from feeling empowered enough to demand equal educational opportunities. In 1997, a woman living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan was punished for wearing nail polish by having her thumb cut off. While the Taliban was removed from power in 2001, they still are active in the region. If a woman is maimed for something as simple as wearing nail polish, what would the punishment be for a woman seeking independence?

In countries like Iran, there are strict state-enforced dress codes. In Iran, any girl over the age of nine years old is required to wear a hijab while out in public. If she fails to do so, she may be sent to prison. Obviously, sending a girl as young as nine years old to prison would severely impact her ability to attend school. And if women chose to protest by not wearing hijabs? They face heavy corruption charges and even longer prison sentences. Some may wonder, wouldn’t girls as young as nine escape prison sentences due to their age? The answer is no, as Article 157 of Iran’s penal code states the minimum age of criminal responsibility is eight years and nine months old.

Oftentimes political instability ruins women’s chances at education as well. For example, in countries like Syria, war often displaces children and ruins infrastructure, preventing them from going to school. The Syrian civil war has prevented over three million children from attending classes. This is particularly jarring as Syria used to have extremely high rates of education. It had 97% of primary school aged children in class, and a 90% literacy rate among adults before the start of the civil war. Syria used to have an intense dedication to education, and all children were required to attend school, male and female alike. Now, barely 40% of Syrian children are still receiving some type of education. This will obviously have serious long-term effects, as everyday children are missing more and more school, setting them back further and further in their education. Around thirty-three percent of schools in Syria have also been shut down and used as shelters for displaced people or military buildings, and over 50,000 teachers in the region have either left the country to seek refuge or have been killed. ISIL has also targeted girls disproportionately in the region, using rape as a method to maintain power over females in the region. Sexual enslavement by ISIL is also common. Child marriages are another concern, as it is nearly impossible to receive an education after being married off at a young age. Out of fear of rape, enslavement, or murder, many parents in the region are extremely hesitant to let their daughters travel any distance unaccompanied. As a result, girls in Syria are especially feeling the effects of war in the region as it pertains to education accessibility.

Sexist regimes also impact women’s health, which affects their ability to pursue an education. A variety of studies have found severe vitamin D deficiencies in Saudi Arabian women. While there are a variety of factors involved, one major reason for this is the amount of sun exposure Saudi women get. Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to be extremely covered up, with very little skin exposure. Unless the women are relatively affluent who have homes with private outdoor areas to get sun-to-skin exposure, it is unlikely they will be able to get proper amounts of vitamin D to stay healthy. This has numerous, long-term negative health effects. By encouraging social norms that require women to stay extremely covered up, the Saudi government is putting them at risk. If girls and women are sick, they are also less likely to attend school. Furthermore, in countries like Saudi Arabia, women need their male guardian to sign off on any medical treatment. This leads to women being less likely to receive the medical attention they need to stay healthy and attend classes.

It seems apparent that many roadblocks in education for women is caused by their governments. It’s extremely easy to see why so many countries don’t want women participating in education; statistically, the more education a women has, the more likely she is to be an active participant in voting and politics. For men who don’t want to see that power shift, depriving women of education seems a natural solution. Unsurprisingly, this is a very backwards way of thinking. Studies show countries with higher rates of female education experience higher rates of women in the workforce, which contributes to that national economy. It serves every country’s best interests to promote female education.

Many may ask, why don’t families with daughter push harder for women’s education? The families’ personal views aside, in many countries there are laws preventing women from gaining employment, owning a business, without asking for a loan without a male family member’s permission. They may also have laws stating that women are to inherit a smaller fraction, if any at all, of a family member’s wealth than their male relatives. Taking all this into account, many families simply don’t see the importance of educating their daughters the same way they do their sons, as they may live in an area where women cannot even reap the benefits of education anyway.

While state-sanctioned discrimination is awful, there are more violent ways groups have repressed women in the Middle East and Africa. Many Islamic terrorist groups have strong positions against female autonomy in particular. An extreme example is the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram. On April 14th, 2014, members of Boko Haram attacked a school and kidnapped 276 girls preparing to take exams. The group attacked this particular views for its practice of “Western education”, which the group forbids. The men arrived with guns and stole the girls out of their dormitories. While there is still much mystery surrounding what happened to these girls, it is common for Boko Haram to sell these girls and women off into marriage or sex slavery. While some girls were able to escape, many faced social rejection afterwards due to the stigma surrounding sexual assault in the region.

Something interesting to note in the case of Boko Haram militants is the blatant disregard for women’s lives on both sides of the conflict. While the terrorist group is very public about its killings and kidnappings of women across Nigeria, the Nigerian government is also guilty of kidnapping the wives of Boko Haram militants in an effort to use them to get information out of the militants. One woman taken by the Nigerian was even pregnant and forced to give birth in prison. In this case, neither side valued women’s autonomy or respected their lives.

Another example of terrorism attempting to stifle women’s access to education is that of Malala Yousafzai. Malala was a Pakistani girl whose family valued her education, unlike many, and worked to give her equal opportunities. She worked as an advocate for women’s education, and her outspoken nature made her a target for the Taliban. In 2012, members of the group raided her school bus, asking “Who is Malala?”, proceeding to shot her in the head for her belief in women’s education. She faced a long road of surgeries and rehabilitation, but was able to make a full recovery. She continued to vouch for female education, and became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate ever at the age of seventeen in 2014.

ISIS is another group with intensely sexist beliefs. They believe girls as young as nine years old should be married off, and that any “pure” girl should be married by the time she is 15 or 16 years of age. The punishment for refusing marriage in an ISIS-run society is death, with around 250 women killed by ISIS by 2016 for that very reason. ISIS also vouches for female isolation, not allowing them to leave their home unless for a pre-scheduled appointment, for religious purposes, or to serve as a doctor or teacher. Regardless of any of these reasons, women are still not allowed outside without a male chaperone under ISIS rule. The group also has a female-run al-Khansaa Brigade. This group enforces laws on women, as gender segregation is crucial to ISIS. They are armed and able to kill if a woman breaks one of their codes. They are known for being extremely brutal and torturing their victims. A teenage girl who lifted her veil in public was brutally beaten and killed by the force. A mother breastfeeding her child was subjected to horrible torture, with a bear-trap like device being used to rip off her breasts. Women are also frequently enslaved by ISIS, often raped, married off, or sold into sexual exploitation. Living under these severe conditions and fearing for life everyday both have intense negative effects on women’s education. Women are clearly targeted by ISIS, and they are viewed as less-human than men, in need of domination.

Many women have lost valuable years off their lives when it comes to seeking education and opportunity under terrorist rule. Women living under Taliban rule barely saw the light of day, and were expected to adhere to extremely strict social laws. Punishments for something as simple as not wearing a full coverage burqa included beatings and death. Women’s rights activists in the region were considered immoral. Women who lived in Afghanistan under Taliban rule were prohibited from going to school, working, showing any skin, leaving home without a male escort, or having any level of political engagement. Another major problem was that women controlled by the Taliban were not allowed to receive care from a male doctor; since women weren’t allowed to go to school or work, there were really no female doctors to be found. As a result, many women died from treatable medical ailments due to a lack of healthcare.

Interestingly, while these terrorist organizations do not see women as fit for education, work, or autonomy, many are opening up military ranks for women. Some women are even embracing life as an Islamic terrorist, as they may have no other choice. In fact, between 1985 and 2010, there were 230 suicide bombings performed by women who were members of radical Islamic militant groups. Many groups are actually taking advantage of the “surprise” tactic many women have as terrorists, as they aren’t viewed as being dangerous. Despite that stereotype, female terrorists’ kill rates are four times higher than males terrorists’. Data suggests nearly ten-percent of Western recruits to ISIS are women. When women aren’t given many options in life, they often turn to extreme measures to get what they need. This is no different from how male recruitment works in terrorist organizations. If countries fail to see female education as a human rights issue, maybe it’s better to phrase it as a national security issue. Women who are less educated are more likely to turn to militant groups; educated women could save so many lives.

Despite all these horrible stories, there are some successes to be seen. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the country mentioned early to have no minimum marriage age, is currently working on a proposal to set the minimum age at 18 years old. This would give girls at least a chance to seek out education. In North Africa, many countries have set a “gender quota”, requiring political parties to nominate a certain number of female candidates to office to increase female political representation. Women are being given more autonomy than ever before; Saudi Arabia recently allowed women to start getting driver’s licenses, many countries are now allowing women to pass on citizenship to their children, and Tunisia is considered proposals to abolish male inheritance laws, allowing men and women to benefit equally from financial inheritance.

Six countries have repealed laws that allow a rapist to escape prison if he marries his victim. More and more women are entering the workforce, with one in three Arab startup companies being led by women. In recent years, many countries have seen major spikes in rates of female education. ISIS targeted the Yazidi people, a religious minority in Iraq, back in 2014. They killed nearly 6,000 men and kidnapped the women to be used as sex slaves. These acts were condemned as an act of genocide by the United Nations. Yet, out of the ashes, women were able to reclaim their lives after the attacks. While physical and psychological scars remained, many women were able to escape and seek out a new life, often turning towards college to further their education and inform the world about these atrocities. According to a study conducted by the United Nations, several Middle Eastern saw 30-percent to 90-percent increases in women’s literacy rates from 1970 to 2000. These victories give hope that a more equal future is possible. There is still much work to do, and these successes aren’t seen as much in countries ravaged by terrorism, but it is a start.

A few quick Google searches will provide anyone with a wealth of articles, resources, and documents describing life for women oppressed by patriarchal governments and terrorist regimes. While this paper is focused on the Middle East and Africa in particular, it is important to note that these kinds of human rights violations can happen anywhere, and there are many countries in the region that provide women with the necessary tools they need to succeed. However, many poor countries, countries suffering at the hands of a dictatorial regimes, wartorn countries, and countries dominated by terrorist organizations cannot provide women with adequate educational resources. By encouraging social stigmas and having sexist laws in place, many countries contribute to the problem of uneducated women and girls. Furthermore, there really isn’t an Islamic terrorist organization out there that supports female autonomy or education. Due to this, women living in regions dominated by Islamic terrorism are deprived of a chance to learn, work, and succeed. By using violence, these organizations suppress women and steal their lives from them. As a result, a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight is robbed of the world.”

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Terrorism and Education. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/terrorism-and-education/