They took the girls up one by one, their bodies wrapped in shrouds and ceremonial blankets. The men carrying the coffins gazed into the distance. The silence was broken by cried prayers.
The bodies kept coming and the gravediggers worked non-stop under the scorching sun. The relentless pace was grim testimony to yesterday’s dreadful news: Saturday afternoon’s triple explosions at a local school produced an outright massacre with girls primarily targeted. There was barely room for all the new graves at the top of the steep hill.
The scale of the massacre and the innocence of the victims were further and chilling evidence of the country’s violent collapse, where the Taliban are advancing daily and the government seems unable to block its path or protect the population from the massacres. Mourners were everywhere on Sunday (9) in the attacked neighborhood, inhabited by members of the persecuted Shia Muslim minority, Hazara. But there was virtually no security to protect them.
The death toll, which may have included more than 80 girls, exceeded even previous massacres suffered in this settlement inhabited by a minority persecuted for years by the Taliban and, in recent years, by the Islamic State. Afghan Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh, himself Hazara, said the attack killed more than 80 girls.
After the American invasion in 2001, the Hazara minority took full advantage of the new educational and business opportunities that opened up in the country. The Hazara constitute a large part of the young technocratic generation in Afghanistan. But at the same time, they, who are Shiites, have become the favorite targets of Sunni militants such as the new Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State.
The Hazaras’ outrage towards the government has grown and they accuse the security forces of standing still, watching and doing nothing, as they suffer appalling losses. Now, on the eve of what many fear is the return of Taliban power in many parts of the country, not to mention a new civil war that some consider inevitable, the Hazara are increasingly determined to secure themselves. even their safety.
A wheelbarrow filled with the girls’ bloody clothes, wrapped in plastic bags, was left outside a mosque on Sunday where some of the bodies were taken away. In another mosque, an underground room filled with women in black robes echoed with the sound of muffled tears. Dark-looking men gathered on the steps of a third mosque, talking quietly about taking up arms and joining a Hazara commander named Abdul Ghani Alipur, on the run from the government.
In front of the metal doors of Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School, twisted by the explosion, the remains of the girls’ last moments of life had piled into a pit, where people gathered in silence examined them. They were torn backpacks, charred notebooks, gnarled sandals, and loose pages of notes.
Grieving Hazara families across the Dasht-e Barchi settlement on Sunday buried their daughters aged 11 to 18. Rows of mourners scaled the hills of the region. The air was full of regret for the mosque dead. Some of the girls were so disfigured in the blasts that their remains could not be identified on Sunday.
Fear hung in the air that this massacre was only a prelude.
“We can do nothing but mourn the dead,” said merchant Jawed Hassani outside the Imam Ali mosque. “We support the government, but what we are recovering are attacks. These girls came from working-class families. They are poor, they have nothing.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
The government attributed the explosions to the Taliban, who denied any involvement. But the Taliban regularly engage in violent persecution of the Hazara. And the group has a history of opposing the education of girls, especially teenage girls. But some analysts blamed the massacre on remnants of renegade Taliban sectors that joined ISIS.
Whoever is responsible, they seem to have gone to great lengths to kill as many girls as possible.
First, a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives outside the school gates. When the students – at the time, they were all girls, although the school was mixed – panicked through the streets of the neighborhood, two more bombs went off, killing even more people. Almost all of the victims were girls.
“Yesterday her dreams were shattered,” commented daily worker Ghulam, preparing to pray for the dead at Qamar-e-Bani Hashim Mosque.
“Today we’re going to bury them with thousands of dreams. This attacked school is one of the poorest in the region. These girls didn’t even have 15 cents to buy bread.
The impression on Sunday was that the Hazaras of the Dasht-e Barchi settlement, with over a million inhabitants, were not so concerned about the exact identity of the killers. Their faces showed the resigned expression of an eternally persecuted minority. Many noted bitterly that until an hour after the attack on Saturday, there was not a single member of the security forces near the attacked school.
And they cited many other attacks they’ve been subjected to and the government’s repeated failure to protect them.
“They blow us up in the streets, in mosques, in hospitals, in academies of struggle, everywhere,” said Kazim Ehsni, imam of the Qamar-e-Bani mosque. “Not a single policeman came yesterday after the attack. Right now there is a crowd here, but not a single security guard.
“People are collecting the bodies of their loved ones,” he continued. “We are in shock. Everyone is terrified.
Anyone here can easily unravel the litany of attacks that Dasht-e Bani’s Hazara has suffered over the years.
“We did not commit any crime, and now it has happened to us again,” said one of those in mourning, Mohhamed Hakim Imon.
“Why do we deserve to die? Those who commit these crimes are enemies of humanity. “
There was the October attack on an educational center that killed 30 people and the May 2020 attack on a maternity hospital in a hospital, in which 15 women died. Both were linked to the Islamic State. There was the September 2018 attack on a wrestling academy that left 20 dead, the attack on a school in August that killed 34 students, and the 2017 mosque explosion that killed 39 people. Not to mention the Hazara massacres in Kabul in the early 1990s, during the civil war, committed by the forces of Commander Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his ally Ahmad Shah Massoud, now hailed as a national hero – but not by the Hazaras.
The absence of government security forces on Sunday, despite the funeral being frequently the target of extremist attacks, has led some to say that the Hazara community can only depend on itself.
“If we are to defend ourselves, men and women must arm themselves,” said Ghulam, the daily.
For parliamentarian Hazara Arif Rahmani, the attack “forces the Hazaras to arm themselves in order to defend themselves. Whether the government likes it or not, people will resist and take their own security. The Hazara will have to make their own decisions. There will be armed men on every street and corner of their neighborhood. “
On Sunday, in front of the attacked school, a crowd surrounded an elderly man who shouted “God help us!” Street vendor Qasim Hassani, who listened to him, commented: “The only option is to take up arms. We just buried an 11 year old girl. What was his crime?
He continued, “If the government doesn’t stop these terrorists from coming to our neighborhoods, we will stop them. Today, I am just a street vendor. But if they keep attacking us, I will become the next Alipur.
President Ashraf Ghani announced that Tuesday (11) would be a national day of mourning for the victims.
The explosion was so powerful that it cracked the windows of stores located a considerable distance away.
“It’s terrifying,” commented Naugiz Almadi, a mother who held her little girl on her lap in front of the school. “We, Hazaras, have no one to protect us. Only God. “