Afghan women protest school attack as Taliban cracks down

Dressed in a long black abaya with her face mask secured, university professor Zahra Mosawi walked the streets of the ancient Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif to denounce incessant attacks on the Shia Muslim minority.

Mosawi, 28, carried with her a large yellow placard with the word “Azadi” – or freedom – scrawled across it as she joined more than 50 other colleagues and students in a demonstration on Monday against the recent attack on a learning centre in Kabul that killed 53 students, mostly young women.

It was just the latest horrific act of violence on a facility attended by Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, who have historically faced persecution. No group claimed responsibility.

“After Friday’s attack on innocent girls in the Kaj education centre, we said we have had enough,” Mosawi told Al Jazeera, referring to the institute in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi area where a suicide bomber opened fire and then blew himself up.

In WhatsApp groups and on social media, Mosawi and other academics and activists mobilised to condemn the unrelenting violence on the Hazara as well as restrictions on women and minorities.

“We have to raise our voices and organise ourselves. This genocide against Hazara has to end,” she said.

University students across Afghan cities take to street protesting Hazara students bombing
University students across Afghanistan took to the streets protesting the latest attack on Hazara students [Courtesy: Bano]
The protesters also demanded the reopening of girls’ high schools in Afghanistan, which have been closed since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year. “We raise our voices for justice and equality. We want the right to work, education, and the free life of women,” Mosawi said.

Similar demonstrations took place in Kabul, Herat and Bamiyan over the weekend, largely led by women from Afghanistan’s academia.

“We talked about the attack on Kaj centre in our classrooms on Saturday, and how Afghan girls are being prevented from education. These girls were killed because they wanted to learn,” said Soraya Alizada, 25, a student who joined the protests in central Bamiyan province.

She and her classmates led a demonstration demanding an end to the violence against the Hazara and the reopening of schools for girls.

“Because of these attacks, many families don’t allow their daughters to take part in the university entrance exam. In which part of the world are girls and boys killed for the crime of seeking education?” Alizada asked.