LONDON - An Afghan woman who supported underground schools at a time when the Taliban banned education for girls, was awarded the fifth annual WISE prize on Wednesday for taking education to marginalised communities.

Sakeena Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995, providing schooling and healthcare in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan as well as setting up the secret home schools, which closed down when Taliban rule ended in 2001.

Since then the charity has expanded its work, helping 12 million people, many of them girls, in rural and marginalised parts of Afghanistan, according to the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). “It is particularly meaningful because this is such a crucial time in Afghanistan,” said Yacoobi, accepting the prize in Doha, Qatar. “I dedicate the prize to the AIL and all of the women, men and children we are educating.”

The Taliban have launched sustained attacks since the withdrawal of most foreign troops late last year, straining the limited resources of Afghan forces. Many districts across the country are now fully or partly under Taliban control. The $500,000 education prize awarded by WISE, set up by the Qatar Foundation, recognises individuals or teams who successfully address global educational challenges that can bring real change to communities. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama also spoke at the conference.

“With this prize, we know that we can continue to educate more and more Afghans, giving them hope and encouraging them to go forward no matter what they are facing,” said Yacoobi. She has also opened private schools under her own name, set up a radio station, and plans to establish a university for women as well as a television network. Last year the prize was won by Ann Cotton, a British entrepreneur who set up Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, which has helped educate more than one million girls in Africa. Other past winners include Vicky Colbert, a Colombian, Madhav Chavan, an Indian, and Fazle Hasan Abed, from Bangladesh.

Afghanistan orders probe after young girl stoned to death: Afghanistan’s president Wednesday ordered a probe into the fatal stoning of a young woman in a Taliban-controlled area after she was accused of adultery, a savage punishment that sparked nationwide outrage.

The woman, identified as Rokhsana and believed to be aged between 19 and 21, had been forced to marry and was accused of adultery after she tried eloping with another man, officials said. “President Ashraf Ghani calls the stoning of a girl in Ghor province extra-judicial, un-Islamic and criminal, condemning it in the strongest terms,” a statement from his office said. “The president assigns a delegation to seriously investigate this incident.” Rokhsana was placed in a hole in the ground as turbaned men gathered around and hurled stones at her with chilling nonchalance, footage released by broadcaster Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty showed.

The woman was heard repeating the shahada, or Muslim profession of faith, her voice growing increasingly high-pitched as stones struck her with sickening thuds. The chilling footage went viral on social media, sparking strong public criticism.

Afghan officials said that the killing took place about a week ago in a Taliban-controlled area just outside Firozkoh, the capital of Ghor.

Rokhshana was stoned by a gathering of “Taliban, local religious leaders and armed warlords”, Ghor’s Governor Seema Joyenda told AFP. The man she was eloping with was let off with a lashing, her office said. The brutal punishment meted out to Rokhshana highlighted the endemic violence against women in Afghan society, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban regime fell in 2001.

In March a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a Koran. The mob killing triggered protests around the country and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women. Public lashings and executions were common under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, when a strict interpretation of Sharia law was enforced, but such incidents have been less common in recent years.