Militant Attack On Innocents Elicits Outcry Against Violence In Afghanistan15 May 2020
One would have thought, or at least hoped, that the on-going coronavirus crisis that gripped the world would have put some stop to acts of senseless violence taking place around the world. After all, we have seen communities, some previously and bitterly split, coming together to help those most vulnerable and working together to put this horrible outbreak behind us.
Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, such global developments appear to have put few breaks on the daily acts of violence. In fact, the violence in the country seems to be growing ever-more unfettered. Just as a bloody attack in March targeted a community that had little involvement in the country’s war, the Sikhs, another bloody attack on Tuesday targeted those that are considered out of bounds even in the most vicious wars: the newly-born and the dead.
On Tuesday morning, a group of three militants attacked a maternity hospital in Kabul’s Dashti Barchi district. The shooters opened fire indiscriminately at mothers holding their babies as well as the Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) staff that operated the hospital.
“The attackers were shooting at anyone in this hospital without any reason,” said one nearby vendor, Ramazan Ali.
One of the doctors said that “total panic” took hold as the attackers opened fire, with some 140 people in the hospital scrambling to find safety. Although security forces managed to carry people, including newborns, to safety, 24 people have been left dead in the wake of the attacks. Among them are doctors, parents, a police officer and newborns. Officials in the nearby Ataturk Hospital are now working to ensure that those who have been injured can be cared for, while the children separated from their parents can be reunited. Many are worried, however, that the children, some of whom have been not even been named, may already be orphans.
Around the same time, in the Nangarhar Province to the north of Kabul, a bombing targeted the funeral of Sheikh Akram, a local police commander. 25 people were killed in the attack that took place just as the attendees were preparing to hold prayers.
Even by the standards of a country that has unfortunately gotten so accustomed to bloodshed, the scale and senselessness of the violence and the images from the attacks, especially those shoving bloodied newborns being carried to safety by soldiers, has been nothing short of shocking.
“Born to see this? Time to rethink!” said Lotfullah Najafizada, the head of Afghanistan’s Tolo News above one of the photos showing the aftermath of the attack.
While the Nangarhar attack has already been claimed by Daesh but the group has not claimed the Kabul hospital attack, leaving many speculating, not just about who the attackers were but also why they chose to attack a maternity hospital.
The attack took place in a district that is predominantly populated by Shia Muslims and this has been cited as a possible motivation. In fact, Daesh itself has a history of attacking the district. Some lone voices on social media, in fact, excused the attack on these very grounds. Thankfully, they were immediately confronted by many who pointed out to the sheer inhumanity of targeting newborns who are too young to know such petty factionalisms, as well as their parents who were too worried about the well-being of their children rather than politics of sects.
If this truly was the motivation of the attackers, it is our duty as Muslims to take a stand against the evil that is sectarianism that has caused so much fracture within our own community and so much bloodshed.
Indeed, even the funeral attack, which Daesh took responsibility for with its usual excuses, should be beyond the pale for anyone with a sense of decency and unjustifiable by any excuses. Funerals, like maternity wards, are a place of our common humanity, where we all start and end our lives. No ideology or tactic is worth bringing bloodshed to these spaces and no excuse can justify attacks on these spaces.