Afghanistan in Mourning; Do Not Kill, Without Exception

A day after the bloody incident at Kabul University, the government declared Tuesday a day of national mourning and ordered the national flag to be flown at half-mast inside and outside the country. In addition, large numbers of students and civil society activists gathered in Kabul and other parts of the country to commemorate the victims of the incident and to protest against the current security situation. The protesters demanded clarification of the situation concerning war and peace in the country and called on the people involved to clarify their position on the political spectrum, i.e., whether they are with the government or the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the government has once again blamed the Taliban for attacking the country’s largest educational institution. The group, for its part, denied involvement in Monday’s bloody incident. Leaders of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), NATO and representatives of 42 other countries condemned the attack on Kabul University and stressed the importance of a ceasefire and peace. Together with the European Union and the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany also raised their flags at their representations in Afghanistan. The Qatar government negotiating team called on the Taliban to accept immediate ceasefire in order to absolve the group from any responsibilities and cut off the enemies’ hands which are at the throats of the people.

On Tuesday, November 3, the day after the attack on the country’s largest educational institution, the government declared a national day of mourning and the national flag was raised at half-mast inside and outside the country. The bodies of the 22 victims of the bloody incident at Kabul University on Monday were buried by their families. The attack on Kabul University provoked a wave of sharp reactions. Hundreds of people protested in Kabul, Paktia and other provinces. Students and civil activists posted banners on the doors and walls of Kabul University attributing the attack to the Taliban and calling for clarification on the state of war and peace in the country. They also called on religious scholars to break their silence and for the international community to take serious steps to address the current situation. With the slogan, “do not kill us, your bullets are not enough, we are many”, students and civil activists sent a message that marginalizing or silencing groups of people is not possible.

In Paktia, a group of students gathered to commemorate the victims. In addition to sympathizing with the families of the victims, they said that the attack on universities, schools and public facilities was in fact an attack on science and knowledge. Students in Paktia said that the death of a student is the death of progress and the murder of a student will destroy the future of the country. Funeral recitation ceremonies for the victims were also held in all provinces. Some participants in the memorial service for the victims called the attack on Kabul University a “crime against humanity” and called for a serious investigation into the incident.

The day after the incident, the government once again stressed the involvement of the Taliban in the attack on Kabul University. Amrullah Saleh, the first Vice President, said on Tuesday, November 3, that the attack was the work of the Taliban because, according to him, the weapons left by the terrorists did not match the pictures in the “fake” ISIL declaration. He mentioned the murals by the attackers and the bloody Taliban flag as other examples of the Taliban’s role in the attack. According to Saleh, the attack on Kabul University is in line with the Haqqani network’s bloodthirsty style and is similar to the style of a group created by the Taliban under the name “Fatay Zwak” in Khost. He felt sorry for those who linked the incident to ISIL, stressing that he had dozens of “hard and soft” pieces of evidence proving the Taliban’s attack on Kabul University.

Taliban officials also had a busy day trying to absolve themselves of responsibility on several occasions. Reacting to the first vice president’s remarks, Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, said the mural and the bloody flag at the scene were “staged.” The Taliban also issued a statement from the group’s Higher Education and Training Commission calling the attack on Kabul University “unjustifiable” and denying any involvement. Tensions between government officials and prominent members of the Taliban even escalated to social media posts. Mr. Saleh wrote on his Twitter page that the Taliban had previously said that there was no group other than the Taliban in waging violence against the government, and that they were now refusing to take responsibility. Ahmadullah Wasiq, Deputy Head of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission, wrote under Amrullah Saleh’s Twitter account that this was accurate, “except for the guests that the government is holding.” The Taliban had previously blamed ISIS for the attack and accused the government of failing to contain the attack.

Meanwhile, the government’s negotiating team in Doha called for an immediate ceasefire in the country. Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai, the Head of the Delegation, wrote on his Twitter page on Tuesday, November 3, that if the Taliban were committed to ending the brutal killing of the Afghan people, they should immediately accept ceasefire and cut off the “enemies’ hands” from the people. He added that no one could acquit themselves of such murder and terror, calling the Kabul University incident an “eternal disgrace” on the heads of those who have shamed “humanity.” He identified the source of the attacks as one, but said that only the branches were different.

The United States also reacted to the attack on Kabul University and condemned it. Zalmai Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, wrote on his Twitter page that the government and the Taliban should not allow ISIL and other terrorist groups to commit such “inhumane acts.” He called on the government and the Taliban to unite for peace, find a way to a ceasefire and speed up the process of reaching a political agreement. He called these solutions the correct response to “unspeakable barbarism.” In addition to the United States, the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, NATO and 41 other countries have condemned the incident. Along with the European Union and the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany have announced that they have raised their flags in Afghanistan at half-mast in sympathy with the families of the victims of the attack on Kabul University.

Monday’s attack on Kabul University left 22 dead and 27 wounded, with most of the victims being students. Among the victims were 10 female students. Widespread images of the victims on social media provoked a wave of reactions, with people even calling for the return of the negotiating team from Doha. Citizens called on the government to shift security forces from active semi-defensive to offensive positions. Earlier, President Ghani condemned the attack and warned that security forces would retaliate for several times the number of victims. However, sources in Doha express hope that peace talks will continue, even despite the current situation.