Suicide bombers struck Shiite (mostly Hazara) pilgrims on December 6, killing over 60 people in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif during holy holiday of Ashura. I was moved by a photo of a woman crying out in horror at the carnage around her. It was also a cry of helplessness and a cry of sorrow. I couldn’t help but feeling that sense of helplessness and sorrow.
The attack seemed timed to coincide with the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan 10 years after the first conference held in the same city. Amnesty International has a delegation in the city monitoring the conference. We have been arguing that human rights must not be sacrificed as the US winds down its security presence in the country. This bombing is an example of need for the international community to maintain its commitment to protect human rights in Afghanistan.
Because the Hazara generally follow the Shiite sect as opposed to the Taliban’s claim of following a form of Sunni Islam, the Hazara bore the brunt of the savage brutality of the Taliban while they were in power from 1996 – 2001. Hazara women, who have been comparatively well educated, faced especially harsh treatment by a Taliban known for its its capricious application of tribal laws towards women. However, since the Taliban were expelled from the north, the Hazara have not generally faced violence at the same levels as the Pashtuns in the southern part of the country.
If the allegations are true, this series of suicide bombings mark a very dangerous turn in an already unstable and dangerous Afghanistan. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been in a downward spiral for several years and will undoubtedly get worse as the Pakistan-based group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been tied with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Ten years after the Taliban were ousted from power, we see another 63 innocent women, children and men blown up simply for taking part in a religious ceremony. Even more depressing than hearing that these lives are gone is to know that their mourning family members will never see the perpetrators of these murders face justice. As human rights activists, we generally try to be hopeful and optimistic, but I can’t really express any optimism in this case and can only express my sorrow.
Below is graphic video posted by the Russian government television channel RT: