The banner held by student protesters reads: “Do not kill us. You will run out of bullets; we are many.”
Students at Kabul University (KU) resumed their classes just days after the November 2nd terrorist attack which killed thirty-five and wounded more than fifty. According to a notification from the KU administration, the decision was made two days after the attack in a top-level meeting under the leadership of the president of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani. Journalism student Mareena Ahmed told University World News that “There are additional check points, security guards and more vigilant checking. However, this cannot bring back the precious lives we have lost to the terrorist attack.”
The Interior Ministry spokesman, Tariq Arian, also told University World News that the Afghan government has a new security strategy for the university, which will strengthen its operations and surveillance, “It would not allow academic institutions to be harmed in the raging war in the country…A major part of it is to deal with the propaganda war by the Taliban, but we will address potential loopholes in security without turning academic institutions into military positions.” Just one day after the attack, KU students held protests against the lack of security and pushed for authorities to do a detailed investigation into the KU attack. Thirteen police officers, including key security officials were arrested and referred to the court over the KU attack and were released last Thursday, according to the Kabul police spokesman, Ferdaws Faramarz. The first Vice-President Amrullah Saleh has said that an investigation is under way.
Established in the 1930s, Kabul University is one of Afghanistan’s largest universities with more than 20,000 (co-ed) registered students. Nearly 43% of the student’s population are females. This is hardly the first time that terrorists have attacked educational institutions. Just a week before the KU attack, at least 24 teenage students were killed in a suicide attack in an academic institute in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of Kabul, an area largely inhabited by the Shia Hazara minority. Additionally, in August 2016, there was a deadly 10-hour assault on the premier private sector of American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul, which left at least 13 people dead, including seven students.
A domestic press described victims of KU a “loss of Afghanistan’s talented youth” as many of the victims were reportedly seniors and among the top performers in their classes. President Ashraf Ghani called the attack “despicable act of terror” and announced a national day of mourning to honor the victims. The country’s Higher Education Ministry has declared November 2nd as ‘Dark Day’ and decided to erect a monument at the university in the memory of those killed in the attack. Families of the victims called on the fighting groups to cease further hostilities and help restore peace and security in the country.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, while Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s senior vice president, accused Taliban operatives for the assault. In a Twitter post, he wrote that “They [the Taliban] will never be able to wash their conscience of this stinking & non-justifiable attack.” A student told Aljazeera “I saw what happened inside; there was a white Taliban flag drenched in blood and ‘Long Live the Islamic Emirate’ scrolled on the wall.”
Despite the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, the Taliban group has increased their attacks and violence in Afghanistan, according to The New York Times Magazine, at least 186 pro-government forces and 163 civilians have been killed during the first 3 weeks of November. On Tuesday November 24, two explosions rocked a local market in the city of Bamiyan, capital of Bamiyan province. At least 17 people were killed and more than 50 more were seriously injured. Bamiyan, home to mainly Hazara community and for centuries the famous of Buddha statue which the Taliban destroyed, used to be one of the most secure provinces in Afghanistan. It hosts thousands of visitors and tourists every year.