20 Hazara women killed in Afghanistan
After a suicide bombing that killed 20, mostly young Hazara women, dozens of women from Afghanistan’s minority ethnic group protested in the capital on Saturday.
In the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, a bomber detonated himself on Friday during a test-taking session for students preparing for university entrance examinations.
The minority Hazara population lives in the western neighbourhood, a largely Shiite Muslim enclave, and is a historically persecuted group that has recently been the subject of some of Afghanistan’s most violent atrocities.
The UN has put the death toll at 24, despite the police reporting at least 20 deaths.
About 50 women marched passed a hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi on Saturday while chanting, “Stop Hazara genocide, it’s not a crime to be a Shiite.” Several attack victims were being treated there.
An AFP correspondent stated that angry protestors carrying “Stop killing Hazaras” placards were dressed in black hijabs and headscarves.
According to eyewitnesses, the suicide attacker detonated in the women’s area of the gender-segregated hall.
Farzana Ahmadi, a 19-year-old protester, told AFP that “Yesterday’s attack was against the Hazaras and Hazara girls.” “We call for an end to this genocide. To demand our rights, we organised the protest.”
Later, a crowd of protesters assembled in front of the hospital and screamed slogans under the watchful eye of dozens of Taliban who were highly armed and some of them had rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Women’s protests have become dangerous since the hardline Taliban seized control again in August of last year, with many protesters being jailed and rallies being dispersed by Taliban forces firing rounds in the air.
The incident at the Kaaj Higher Educational Center on Friday has not yet been linked to any particular group.
Shiites are viewed as heretics by the terrorist Islamic State (IS), which has previously claimed responsibility for attacks in the region that targeted mosques, schools, and girls.
Rights organisations frequently charged the Islamists with targeting the Hazara community throughout the Taliban’s 20-year battle against the former US-backed government because the Taliban also saw them as heathens.
The Taliban have vowed to defend minorities and crack down on security risks since retaking power.
The attack on Friday was “a shamefaced reminder of the inadequacy and utter failure of the Taliban, as de-facto authorities, to safeguard the people of Afghanistan,” according to rights group Amnesty International.
Before the Taliban took back control in May of last year, three bombs detonated close to their school in Dasht-e-Barchi, killing at least 85 people, mostly girls, and injuring 300 more.
No group took ownership once more, but a year prior, IS took responsibility for a suicide bombing that left 24 people dead at an educational facility in the same region.
Taliban leaders now face a significant security threat from IS, although Taliban officials assert that their forces have already routed the extremists.