Families in Kabul buried the coffins of their children due to the aftermath of the attack on Syed Al-Shuhada, a school in Dasht-e-Barchi which was the educational institution for impoverished children. This brutal strike has been classified as one of the worst attacks in Afghanistan in the last year, and the second full blown attack on students. The death toll came around to 80 people including young schoolgirls mostly aged 11-18. Around 150 people fell victim to horrible injuries, with some claiming the attack felt as though ‘judgement day had come’. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the detonation of the bombs, yet many firmly believe it was orchestrated by ISIS even though the terrorist group has denied its involvement in the incident.
The attack consisted of a big car bomb with two subsequent explosions, both of which detonated right outside the gates of the school, through which children were expected to leave. The explosions are thought to be calculated as the timings correlated with an afterschool program specifically designed for members of the Hazara community, who happen to be a persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan who make up roughly 9% of the country’s population.
The survivors of the horrific blast are in shock. A father described his daughter’s mental state when he said ‘she laughs, and then cries for an hour. She hits herself. She says the attack keeps coming back to her’.
People of Afghanistan are infuriated with the government due to the lack of security measures put in place to protect the country’s people from harm. Witnesses to the blast were appalled at the slow response of the police, ambulances and the intelligence forces in terms of making it to the site of the blast in a timely manner. It was reported that although the police station was only a few kilometers away, officials took an hour to reach the scene. Instead of being held accountable for their lack of attention and care, Commander Naser Naderi went on the record to defend the police and stated that ‘the police district did its work to the best of its ability’. Eventually, witnesses took it upon themselves to reach out into the rubble of the explosion to rescue the survivors. One of the few people who took it upon themselves to escort the injured people described how ‘everyone was taking whoever they could to their homes or to the hospitals’. It’s as if the people of Afghanistan have been completely abandoned.
This isn’t the first attack on a school that Afghanistan has witnessed. Violence has become an underlying theme in Afghanistan through which pain, suffering and violence have been normalized. On July 1st 2018, armed men attacked the Malikyar Hotak School in Nangarhar, which ISIS claimed were working with the US. A report published in December 2017 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that more than 1000 schools in Afghanistan had been partially or totally destroyed or being used for military purposes. Back in 2018, a school bombing killed 34 people, in October 2020, the Kawsar-e-Danish tutoring center was attacked killing 30 people. Even hospitals, a place dedicated to healing and helping others, are not safe seeing as back in May 2020, a maternity hospital was attacked which took the lives of 24 people including women and children.
The country’s situation is expected to become much worse since President Joe Biden set a deadline of September 11 for the United States Forces to leave Afghanistan. Their departure has evoked more action from the Taliban, making people terrified of what the future holds. Even the New York Times referred to the school bombing as ‘a foreshadowing of what’s to come’. Things are expected to become even more bloody and violent with many perceiving the attack a warning.
The bombing has raised a moral dilemma, where parents are extremely hesitant in sending their children back to schools. The feeling of doom is mutual between parents and children. A mother described how her girls ‘cried all night last night, waking up saying ‘Don’t send us to school. School is where you die’. Parents find themselves conflicted since they want their kids to get a well-rounded education but also want them to come back home. Contrastingly, survivors of the attack such as 17-year-old Tahira bravely declare and encourage other students to go back to school as she said ‘Don’t bow down to this oppression. Continue school’.
There needs to be an in-depth investigation carried out by an international organization such as the United Nations to pin point the exact group or person who targeted the school. Awareness surrounding the incident has increased as people continue to share the incident’s outcome, yet proper action needs to be taken to actually help and protect the innocent people of Afghanistan and prevent such episodes from happening again. There is a dire need for some kind of wakeup call for the government to increase the efficiency of its police and hospitals. Given the current situation, ensuring organization and maximum productivity of the police and medical services is one of the few things the government can do to help its people, and is quite frankly the bare minimum.