Mourning after massacre: Afghan emerging generation under attack


Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors, had been expecting to be assassinated. But on Thursday night, it was her father who was cut down by gunmen in front of his house in Kabul, the capital, The Times reports:

Ms. Ghafari, 27, has survived several attempts on her own life. Her position as a reform-minded woman in public office — she is the mayor of Maidan Shar, a town in Wardak Province, which borders Kabul — has exposed her to grave danger in Afghanistan’s predominantly patriarchal society….And on Monday, self-proclaimed members of the Islamic State killed at least 22 people, most of them students, at Kabul University, Afghanistan’s largest academic institution, sending the capital into newfound depths of despair.

Credit: Wikipedia

The United States State Department condemned Ghafari’s assassination, adding that since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo awarded Mayor Ghafari (right) the International Women of Courage Award in March 2020, she has survived two assassination attempts.

“My colleague Samiullah Mahdi, Radio Free Afghanistan’s bureau chief in Kabul, taught 16 students killed in the attack,” RFE/RL’s Abubakar Siddique adds. “He looks back on the fateful day in this video report (above). I profiled Mohammad Rahed, one of the student victims Samiullah taught. The 21-year-old lived by the motto ‘smile in the face of hardship.’”

The United Nations Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms the atrocious and cowardly terrorist attack” and French President Emmanuel Macron today deplored the massacre. “My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. Education is a universal good for humanity that we must all protect together,” he tweeted.

At least three of those killed were members of the Afghans for Progressive Thinking (APT) Debate Club, a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). 

“While we are all devastated, we remain committed to our vision for peace and justice,” said APT’s director Mohammad Ajmal. “This young generation is the hope of our nation and we cannot grow tired of working and fighting alongside them. Thank you for standing with us.”

Among the victims was Mohammed Rauf Arif, 23, who visited Mahdi’s office a few weeks before his death, Al Jazeera reports.

“He was telling me, one day he will be capable enough to do something for his country. And throughout our meeting, I was in awe of his determination,” said Sami Mahdi, a professor at the Kabul University, who teaches Conflict Resolution and Negotiations. “He told me his family was telling him to get out of the country because it is not safe, but he smiled and said: ‘I am not going anywhere, I will stay here.’”

One of the three classmates, Amin, a fourth-year student of the PAF, was a motivational speaker and ran his own YouTube channel, Al Jazeera adds. Some of his videos are titled, Surround yourself with optimistic people, Life is a Race and Know your Value, but in one video that is making the rounds on social media, he says: “Smile in the face of hardships.”

NED President Carl Gershman (left) said the endowment was “shocked and saddened” by the attack, adding that over the last decade APT has worked with over 40,000 students across Afghanistan to promote youth leadership and a culture of peace, and to build a vision for a just and inclusive society.

In this week’s episode of the RFE/RL video series Afghan Peace Talks: What’s At Stake For You? (below), Ghazal Sharifi Mayel, a dentist, echoes similar sentiments. “We are very thirsty for peace, but a peace in which we can feel, as women, like a useful part of society [and fully participate] as citizens,” she said.

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