Afghan Girls' Illness May Be Poisoning—or Hysteria
200 schoolgirls fall ill, but cause remains uncertain
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2009 7:11 AM CDT
At least 84 Afghan schoolgirls were admitted to a hospital last week for headaches and vomiting in the third seeming poison attack on a girls' school in as many weeks, officials and doctors said.    (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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(Newser) – Some Afghan girls have described the odor as sweet and floral, others as smoky or rotten—but in the last three weeks, about 200 schoolgirls have suffered headaches, vomiting, and even collapse after smelling something. Parents fear that the Taliban is using poison to keep the girls from school. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, some experts have another opinion: the girls are suffering from a mass psychological disorder.

Dozens of girls have been hospitalized, but blood tests have failed to turn up any poisonous substance. Afghan officials have arrested six people and continue to suspect poison, but the reactions may have resulted from terror of being attacked for going to school. Either way, said one UN official, the reality for schoolgirls is dire: "What we see is a growing acceptance of violence against women and girls."