JAWZJAN PROVINCE -- Residents of Darzab District, Jawzjan Province, are refusing to succumb to the extremist curriculum imposed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
Since ISIS entered the province in June, the group has destroyed more than a dozen schools in Darzab District, provincial officials say. A girls' high school was the latest to fall victim to the group's extremism.
"ISIS members carried out an attack in Sar Dara village and entered Darzab girls' school," Abdulhai Yeshin, head of the Jawzjan Province education department, told Salaam Times. "They first destroyed all laboratory equipment such as biology related sculptures and skeletons. Afterward ... they burnt down the school."
"In areas under their control, ISIS has distributed announcements in schools and mosques stating that upon reopening of schools at the end of summer the group will implement the curriculum of the 'Islamic caliphate,'" he said.
"Although Darzab is a remote area, its residents love culture and science," Yeshin said. "Darzab's girls and boys are all very interested in education, to the point that 44% of students in Darzab's 47 schools are girls."
Despite the presence of Taliban and ISIS in Darzab, the district has 47 schools and more than 15,000 male and female children enrolled, according to Yeshin.
"There are 12 schools in Darzab in areas controlled by ISIS," he said. "If the government does not take action against ISIS... the militants will shut down [all] schools. They are not going to allow students, especially females, to continue their education."
'Ready to fight' for education
Jawzjan students and parents say they are worried about ISIS's actions in their province.
"I want to study in order to become a good teacher for Jawzjan's girls," said Nasima, a 13-year-old student in Darzab.
"However, I am worried about the presence of ISIS in our region and fear it will prevent me from going to school," she told Salaam Times.
"My daughter and my two sons are schoolchildren, and I work from dawn until dusk so...my children can become educated and won't end up illiterate like their father," Shokrullah, 45, a resident of Darzab, told Salaam Times.
"I am very hopeful about the future of my children," he said. "I will not allow ISIS, or anyone else for that matter, to hinder my children's education."
"I am ready to fight ISIS," Shokrullah said.
ISIS actions 'un-Islamic and inhumane'
"ISIS continues to commit atrocities in Darzab," Mohammad Reza Ghafuri, a spokesman for the Jawzjan governor, told Salaam Times. "In some areas of Darzab, ISIS members... use schools, mosques, houses and gardens as their trenches and strongholds."
The local government will not allow ISIS to implement its extremist curriculum in schools, he said.
"Security forces have prepared plans to destroy ISIS, and a major clearing operation will be carried out over the next few days in Darzab District to rid the district of ISIS," Ghafuri said.
The major offensive has not started, but small Afghan ground and air operations and some coalition air strikes are occurring.
"Islam has made learning and knowledge acquisition obligatory for men and women alike," said Mawlawi Abdelkarim, a religious scholar and a resident of Sheberghan, capital of Jawzjan Province.
"Destruction and burning of schools indicate ISIS members' animosity towards culture, education, Afghan traditions and Islamic principles," he told Salaam Times.
"ISIS, who had previously attacked mosques, assassinated tribal elders, and murdered or kidnapped children and women, is now destroying schools," he said. "It even used mosques as its combat trenches."
"I say explicitly that what ISIS is doing is un-Islamic and inhumane, that it has no place in any religion or sect," said Abdelkarim.