Reporting Impact

Afghanistan: Nov/Dec '11 Part I

IWPR report highlighted the dangers of madrassas preaching radical Islamic ideas

Parents in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province say they are no longer willing to send their children away to religious schools in Pakistan after an IWPR report highlighted the dangers of madrassas preaching radical Islamic ideas. (See Afghans Recall Sons From Extremist Madrassas.)

Two new schools have opened in Kapisa province, north of Kabul, following the publication of the July 27 report which highlighted the growing reluctance of Afghan parents to expose children to the of recruitment by extremists. The story was picked up by many local television and radio outlets.

“After your report was published, the government paid attention to the issue,” Abdol Rasul Safi, deputy director of the local education department, said. “Now, two religious schools have been established in the Tagab and Alasai districts where local mullahs and religious scholars teach the children. Many people are no longer sending their children to Pakistani schools. Some have brought their children back from religious schools in Pakistan and enrolled them locally.”

Safi urged other media outlets to follow in IWPR’s footsteps, and to reach out to other provinces of Afghanistan.

The governor of Kapisa province, General Mehraboddin Safi, praised the IWPR story.

“After the report was published, I gathered tribal elders and spoke to them about it,” he continued. “I told them that the problem was now clear and that we needed to find solutions for it. They agreed with me and as a consequence, two religious schools were established in Alasai and Tagab districts. Now we are trying to establish similar schools in other areas of Kapisa as well, so that our children will not be exploited by our enemies.”

The report, which was carried by the Tolo and One TV channels, was also the subject of a roundtable organised by the Spozhmai radio station.

Spozhmai radio producer Asadollah Wahidi described IWPR stories as “perfect”, adding that he frequently used them as topics for round tables because they were both fresh and well-researched.

“Each of these reports resolves a problem,” he said. “They point out issues which are very important and sensitive, and which other media outlets mostly don’t pay attention to.”

Local people also expressed satisfaction with the IWPR story and its impact.

“When I heard that Afghan children were being trained up for suicide attacks at Pakistani religious schools, and that many people were bringing their children back from those schools, I too called my 16-year-old son Hayatollah back from Pakistan,” Taj Gol, a resident of the Arku area in Kapisa, said. “He’s studying at a religious school here now. I’m grateful to the media outlet which alerted us to this danger.”

Hajji Khoshal, from Alasai district,said, “When the IWPR report was published by various media outlets, people really woke up, because they realised what their children were learning in Pakistani religious schools and how these vulnerable boys were being sacrificed in this manner.

“We therefore made an effort to bring all the children back from Pakistan.”

Hajji Khoshal called on the government to set up more religious schools so that no one would be tempted to send their children to Pakistan any more.

Arash Kabuli is a freelance reporter in Kapisa province, Afghanistan.