Afghanistan Protests

On September 30th, 2022, students at the Kaaj Educational Center in Kabul fell victim to a suicide attacker. The brutality took place as female students were seated for a practice university entrance exam, a rare opportunity for those who had been adversely affected by the Taliban’s ban on secondary education for female students a year prior. The attack left 110 victims injured and 53 dead, a vast majority of whom were young women and girls. 

The attack blatantly targeted the Hazara community, a historically persecuted ethnic group from the Hazaristan region in central Afghanistan that has been subjected to increasing levels of ethnically-motivated attacks since last year’s Taliban takeover. Since then, attackers are often exempt from any sort of consequence when Hazaras are the ones victimized. Out of the 53 dead, over 35 were ethnically Hazara. 

Following this tragedy, women protesters have organized themselves and called for an end to the genocide against Hazara and the reopening of schools to girls. As a result of the continued attacks against Afghan women seeking an education, many young girls aren’t allowed to take part in university entrance exams out of fear that they may fall victim to similar crimes. Even peaceful protesters were prosecuted and met with violent backlash from the Taliban. Witnesses reported security forces violently dispersing protesters with “warning shots”, beating, verbally assaulting, arresting, and breaking the phones of the young women mid-demonstration. 

On top of their usual methods of punishing protesters, the Taliban employed new violent and abusive tactics, such as locking students in hostels. The extremist group has no tolerance for protests regarding women’s issues and the abuse they face under their totalitarian regime. Despite this, women have continued to fight for their basic human rights, taking to the streets chanting “Bread, Work, Freedom!”, demanding women’s involvement in Afghanistan’s socio-political landscape through reactionary abuse from authorities. Additionally, women were happy to see a new small surge of male involvement in these protests for the first time. University Professor and protestor Zahra Mosawi explained that “although only a limited number joined…it might inspire other men to stand with women of their provinces,” before calling those sitting idly to action, saying that turning a blind eye to abuse against women sets a precedent for men to be faced with the same persecution as conditions continue to worsen.

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