Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

Featured Posts        





Apr 25th, 2010

Afghan Schoolgirls Fall Ill in Suspected Gas Attack

Authorities blame insurgents who oppose educating girls


Afghan girls scared away from school (NBC Nightly News, April 26, 2010) — Young Afghan girls, once excluded from education under Taliban rule, are now attending school by the millions, but disturbing new threats are once again keeping girls out of the classroom. NBC’s John Yang reports. (02:21)

By Mohammad Hamed

April 25, 2010

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Scores of Afghan schoolgirls were knocked unconscious or made ill over the weekend by suspected poison gas attacks on their schools and authorities are blaming insurgents who oppose educating girls.

Provincial police chief Abdul Razzaq Yaqubi said about 48 girls and several teachers had become ill suddenly and many collapsed after smelling poison gas at a school in the northern city of Kunduz on Saturday.

Humayum Khamosh, a doctor at a Kunduz hospital, said another 13 girls fell ill after an attack at another school on Sunday.

“I was in class when a smell like a flower reached my nose,” said Sumaila, 12, one of the girls hospitalized after the attack. “I saw my classmates and my teacher collapse and when I opened my eyes I was in hospital.”

President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer said insurgents intent on spreading fear were to blame for the incidents. …

A Taliban spokesman denied the group was responsible, but said other anti-government groups could be to blame. …

Azizullah Safar, head of the main hospital in Kunduz, said many of the girls were still suffering from pain, dizziness and vomiting. The city has seen a surge in violence over the past year as militants stage a fierce campaign to reclaim a former stronghold. …

Similar attacks have been carried out in other parts of Afghanistan over the past few years, including areas where there is little Taliban presence.

Yaqubi said 20 girls had fallen ill in a suspected poison attack on another Kunduz school last week, although it was not until the weekend attacks that the issue caused national alarm.

In the south and east, where the Taliban control towns and villages, schools for girls remain shut, teachers have been threatened and some girls have been attacked with acid. …

Full story



Authorities would be well advised to investigate alleged poison gas attacks as a possible cases of mass hysteria, or mass psychogenic illness.

— Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.


Topical reports

Mass hysteria (Wikipedia)

Mass hysteria among schoolchildren

Diagnosing hysterical conversion reactions in children

Protean nature of mass sociogenic illness: From possessed nuns to chemical and biological terrorism fears


Late update

Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned by Taliban?

Image: Girl in hospital bed
A medic at the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, checks on one of the hospitalized schoolgirls. (Photo credit: Fulad Hamdard / AP)

The Associated Press and Reuters via
April 25, 2010 (11:57 a.m. CT)

KABUL — More than 80 schoolgirls have fallen ill in three cases of mass sickness over the past week in northern Afghanistan, raising fears that militants who oppose education for girls are using poison to scare them away from school.

The latest case occurred Sunday when 13 girls became sick at school, Kunduz provincial spokesman Mahbobullah Sayedi said. Another 47 complained of dizziness and nausea on Saturday, and 23 got sick last Wednesday. All complained of a strange smell in class before they fell ill.

None of the illnesses have been serious, and medical officials were still investigating the exact cause. The Health Ministry in Kunduz said blood samples were inconclusive and were being sent to Kabul for further testing.

Sayedi blamed the sickness on “enemies” who oppose education for girls. Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said any attempt to keep girls out of school is a “terrorist act.”

The Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan who oppose female education have been known to target schoolgirls. Girls were not allowed to attend school when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan until they were ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Last year, dozens of schoolgirls were hospitalized in Kapisa province, just northeast of Kabul, after collapsing with headaches and nausea. An unusual smell filled the schoolyard before the students fell ill. The Taliban was blamed, but research into similar mass sickenings elsewhere has suggested that some might be the result of group hysteria [emphasis added].

Anesa, a 9-year-old girl who was among those hospitalized Sunday, said she noticed a strange odor and then saw two of her teachers fall unconscious.

“I came out from the main hall, and I saw lots of other girls scattered everywhere. They were not feeling good,” said Anesa, who gave only her first name. “Then suddenly I felt that I was losing my balance and falling.”

Azizullah Safar, head of the Kunduz hospital, said many of the girls were still suffering from pain, dizziness and vomiting. …

Full story


Related report on this site

Afghan Schoolgirl Mass Hysteria (Aug. 27, 2010)

Gas Attack or Mass Hysteria? (June 12, 2010)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 25, 2009

Bachmann Watch

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee created a Web site devoted to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s false and controversial statements, intended as a virtual “truth squad” to expose Bachmann’s “fantastic claims and lies … that can quickly be disproven.”

The Bachmann File

3 Responses to “Poison Gas or Mass Hysteria?”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Gas Attack or Mass Hysteria? Says:

    […] Poison Gas or Mass Hysteria? (April 25, 2010) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan Schoolgirl Mass Hysteria Says:

    […] Within its sociocultural context, the epidemiological pattern of the reported illnesses bears the hallmark of a group psychological reaction known as mass hysteria. As I wrote on April 25 and June 12, 2010, “Authorities would be well advised to investigate alleged poison gas attacks as possible cases of mass hysteria, or mass psychogenic illness.” […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Americans Evacuate Syria Says:

    […] Poison Gas or Mass Hysteria? […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.