On Saturday, devastating explosions outside a school in Kabul killed at least 68 people and wounded over 165. A large number of victims were girls attending the Syed Al-Shahda school for girls in the western part of Kabul in Dasht-e-Barchi, a district populated with ethnic Hazaras.
President Ashraf Ghani has publicly suggested Taliban insurgents, though the Taliban have denied responsibility and condemned the killings. So far, no groups have come out to claim responsibility for the attack.
A vast majority of Hazaras are Shiite Muslims and members of the group are often subjected to attacks because of their religious affiliation. The country’s Interior ministry deputy spokesperson, Hamid Roshan said an investigation had begun into the explosion.
“I saw many bloodied bodies in dust and smoke, while some of the wounded were screaming in pain,” he said.
Health ministry spokesman Dastagir Nazari said an angry crowd appeared at the scene of the blasts before ambulance workers arrived.
“This savage group [Taliban] does not have the power to confront security forces on the battlefield, and instead targets with brutality and barbarism public facilities and the girls’ school,” he said in a statement.
US diplomat in Kabul, Ross Wilson condemned the blasts as “abhorrent”, tweeting: “With scores murdered, this unforgivable attack on children is an assault on Afghanistan’s future, which cannot stand.”
The European Union delegation in Afghanistan called the explosions a “despicable act of terrorism”.
On Twitter, the organisation said: “Targeting primarily students in a girls’ school, makes this an attack on the future of Afghanistan. On young people determined to improve their country.”
These latest attacks add to the devastating realities for women in a country that remains 170th of 189 countries on the UN Gender Equality Index.
As Asuntha Charles wrote for Women’s Agenda last month, women and girls continue to experience the daily threat of physical and sexual violence, early and forced marriage and limited access to education, health care and even food.
This is not the first time the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood have been targets from Sunni Islamist militants.
In May last year, three gunmen attacked a maternity clinic in the area leaving 25 people dead, including 16 mothers of newborn babies. The hospital was supported by Doctors Without Borders, which later pulled out of the project.
In October, a terrorist killed 40 people at an educational centre in a Hazara neighborhood of Kabul – an attack which ISIS-K claimed responsibility.
According to The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) there were 10 incidents in 2019 resulting in 485 civilian casualties, including 117 killed and 368 injured. In 2018, the group identified 19 incidents with 747 civilian casualties, 233 killed and 524 injured.
Photo Credit: ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES