Kabul school attack underscores threat to Afghanistan’s future

TEHRAN, Aug. 18 (MNA) – Children victimized in terrorist attacks means the generations who are tasked with building the future are in danger.

“How could they attack a classroom,” a friend asked, noticeably angry and outraged. There are no easy answers to that. A human mind cannot come to terms with the atrociousness of such horrendous crimes against humanity. Barging inside a packed classroom and blowing up young school children is no chivalry. It is an act of cowardice and spinelessness. The victims were not carrying arms and they were not on the frontlines of war. They were inside a classroom, preparing for university entrance examination.

More than 50 young children, mostly girls, were killed in cold blood when a suicide bomber attacked Maw'ood Education Center in Shia-dominated neighborhood of western Kabul on Wednesday. They were high-school students preparing for their Kankor examination. Most of them had come to Kabul from far-flung areas and had rented rooms in the congested Dasht e Barchi area.

These young children were the assets of Afghanistan. They represented the future of their country. They had dreams and were chasing those dreams against heavy odds. They didn’t harm anyone. They didn’t understand proxy wars. All they wanted was good education, to achieve something in life, to come out of the grinding web of poverty, and to make their country and parents proud.

Now they have vanished into thin air. Their dreams have been buried with them. We are left behind to make sense of this madness. It has brought back the harrowing memories of 2014 school attack by Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Peshawar city of Pakistan, which had claimed the lives of 149 people, including 132 schoolchildren. And more recently, we saw 44 schoolchildren being killed in Yemen in a Saudi airstrike. There is a common thread that runs through all these attacks. The attackers are driven by the same radical, extremist ideology that is designed to breed hatred.

Moments after the ghastly Kabul attack, social media was flooded with posts describing gory details of the mayhem, and heart-wrenching pictures from the scene. It was a massacre. Small disfigured bodies were strewn all around the place, which used to be a buzzing classroom, a happy place. The survivors were screaming, calling for help.

Among those killed in the heinous attack were 19-year-old siblings Ataullah and Farzana, 18-year-old Kawsar and 17-year-old Rahila. Their pictures were shared widely over social media. But, can anything bring them back? Can we find words to express the depth and enormity of this tragedy?

A few hours after the blast, freelance journalist Meesam Iltaf tweeted about his ‘missing’ 17-year-old cousin Rahila who was also at the education center. He had been to several hospitals but failed to find any trace of her. “Anyone who gets to know any girl named Rahila, please call,” he tweeted. Later at the night, he tweeted again, to break the news of his cousin’s death. “This is all left of her, a watch, with her blood spattered over it,” he wrote, sharing a picture of his cousin’s blood-stained wrist watch.

Many pictures were shared on social media channels, which could shake even the coldest hearts. Pictures of classmates shouldering the coffin of one of the victims, of a crestfallen brother grieving inconsolably in front of the lifeless body of his sister, of parents searching for the traces of their children at the blast site, of a father staring probingly at his daughter’s body shrouded in a white cloth, of the teeming cemetery where coffins were lined up to be lowered into mass graves.

Many heart-rending stories emerged from the scene, which however were not ‘headline material’ for the Western media. The Western governments are directly complicit in these attacks, in this murky war, in the systematic extermination of the future generation of Afghans. As journalist and author Anand Gopal once told me, the blame for resurrecting the insurgency in Afghanistan ultimately rests with the US The US-led war in Afghanistan has entered its 17th year with absolutely no gains.

Just recently, there were reports that more than 150 ISIL fighters had surrendered to Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province after being cornered by the Taliban, which was followed by reports that they would be given amnesty. The truth has many layers in Afghanistan. A privy source later told me that the ISIL fighters were actually evacuated on the orders of the US authorities, which shows that ISIL in Afghanistan and US government have some secret liaison.

Although no group has so far claimed responsibility for this attack, it is believed to be the handiwork of ISIL. The group has openly declared war against Afghans in general and Afghan Shias in particular. There have been more than 15 attacks on Shia places of worship in Kabul alone in past two years.

The dangerous spiral of sectarian bloodletting in Afghanistan has assumed alarming proportions since the advent of ISIL in the war-ravaged country almost four years ago. Its hatred for Shias has a historical background, dating back to the assassination of Hazrat Ali (as) in the mosque of Kufa.

Afghanistan has a grim history of ethnic violence, especially when it comes to targeted killing of Hazara Shias – who account for up to 20 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million population. In the late 1900s, brutal Pashtun ruler Abdul Rahman Khan had ordered extermination of all Shias in central Afghanistan, which led to the gory massacre of thousands of Hazara Shias. For almost a century, Hazara Shias were incarcerated and sold as slaves to wealthy merchants.  Their women and children were sexually abused. Many of them were forced to observe taqiyya (seclusion) and register as Tajiks or Uzbeks.

ISIL has reportedly claimed that they attack Hazara Shias because of their involvement in the Syria war. “Unless they (the Hazara Shias) stop going to Syria and stop being slaves of Iran, we will definitely continue such attacks,” a top ISIL commander was quoted saying to Reuters sometime back. Hundreds of Hazara Shias from Afghanistan are fighting in Syria as part of the Liwa Fatemiyoon force. However, the more plausible reason behind the unrelenting attacks on Hazara Shias is the fact that their religious beliefs clash with the radical Islamism propounded by the ISIL ideologues.

As the security situation deteriorates, the Ashraf Ghani-led government in Kabul seems to have no answers. Last week, Taliban overran the strategic city of Ghazni and it took Afghan forces almost 5 days to regain control over it. The fighting has been raging in Faryab, Baghlan and other provinces. On Thursday morning, the training facility of Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul was attacked.

Journalist and parliamentary election candidate Bilal Sarwary, writing on Twitter, raised some important questions. “How many sleeper cells (are there) in the (Kabul) city? How many security and intelligence failures will we continue to see? Do we really have a military strategy?”

The questions are too many but the government seems to have no answers. Such sad state of affairs inspire no hope, either for Afghans in general or for Hazara Shias in particular.


News Code 136861


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