Dozens of women took to the streets of Kabul on Saturday to protest against what they called the "genocide" of the Shiite Hazara community. The protest comes a day after a suicide attacker blew himself up in a Kabul study hall.
Hundreds of students — largely women of the Hazara ethnic group — were taking tests in preparation for their university exams in the city's Dasht-e-Barchi area when the suicide bombing occurred. The community is a historically persecuted and oppressed group that has been targeted in other fatal attacks in Afghanistan.
"Stop Hazara genocide, it's not a crime to be a Shiite," roughly 50 women chanted, as they marched past a hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi where several victims of the attack were being treated. Dressed in the black hijabs and headscarves mandated by the Taliban, the women carried banners that read "Stop killing Hazaras," an AFP correspondent reported.
Farzana Amadi, a 19-year-old protester told AFP that the attack was specifically against Hazaras and Hazara girls.
"We demand a stop to this genocide. We staged the protest to demand our rights," she said.
Attack death toll rises to 35
At least 35 people have been declared dead in the wake of Friday's attack.
"The latest casualty figures from the attack number at least 35 fatalities, with an additional 82 wounded," the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement.
No extremist groups have taken responsibility for the attack yet. That being said, the Islamic State (IS) group has previously claimed attacks in the same area targeting girls, schools and mosques.
Under Taliban's watch
Tens of heavily armed Taliban soldiers stood watch with rocket-propelled-grenade launchers as the Afghani women chanted protest slogans outside the hospital.
In several online videos, protesters claimed that the Taliban forces were using violence to disperse them and had arrested several men who were accompanying them. The women also claimed that journalists covering the protests were beaten and their cameras were confiscated. Some online videos showed women chanting "stop the genocide," other videos showed Taliban's men firing warning shots in the air.
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August of 2021 after US forces chaotically withdrew from the country under President Joe Biden's command. Since then, security has been a sensitive topic for the Islamic fundamentalist group which has made an effort to downplay any attacks challenging their regime.
Historically, the Taliban too has expressed animosity towards the Shiite Hazara community. However, they pledged to protect minorities upon their return in the country.
mk/msh (AFP, dpa)