But now, the girls' classrooms have been left to deteriorate. The desks and chairs are still laid out in neat rows, but a film of dust has collected, and Bashir stands helplessly in the middle of the room. "Parents in Aqtash are afraid to send their girls to school anymore, after the death threats," he explains. The school director speaks quietly and carefully. He too is afraid, and several of his teachers double as informants for the Taliban. The bearded fighters, he says, would certainly not like it if they knew a reporter was at the school in Aqtash. "You should leave quickly if you want to get out of Aqtash alive," he whispers.
'Apprehended and Killed'
Bashir's warning is hardly an exaggeration. Not 30 minutes after our arrival in Aqtash, located 15 kilometers northeast of Kunduz just off the main north-south arterial, a group of a dozen Taliban fighters, armed with AK-47s, gathers in front of the blue arch at the entrance to the school. "What do you want here?" one of the fighters calls. "This is our region, the Islamic Emirate of North Afghanistan."
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