A suicide attack on a Hazara student centre in Kabul that killed and injured dozens of students has caused fresh concern and fear among Hazara community members in Australia, as calls mount on the Afghan government to implement effective protection measures.
Members of the Australian Hazara community have slammed the Afghan government for “repeatedly ignoring” calls to safeguard the country's Hazara population.
At least 24 people were killed and 57 injured in a suicide bombing that took place outside an education centre in a Hazara Shia neighbourhood of western Kabul on Saturday afternoon.
The attack was the latest in a spate of mass killings perpetrated against the Hazaras in Afghanistan over the past two years.
Outraged by the latest attack, Australian Hazaras have accused the Afghan government of turning a blind eye to calls for the protection of the country’s third-largest ethnic group against targeted attacks from groups such as IS and the Taliban.
A predominantly Shia community, the Hazaras have been historically persecuted and marginalised in Afghanistan, which has led to a stream of refugees to Australia and other Western countries.
Former Afghan government employee and community advocate Dawran Ali Hakimi who now lives in Melbourne has accused Afghan President Ashraf Ghani of trying to “politically weaken” the Hazaras since he took power in 2014, paving the way for terror groups to systematically target the community.
“It’s very clear that after Ghani took power, Hazaras are subject to both political and physical exclusion and suppression from both government and terror groups' [the Taliban and the Haqqani Network] sides,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Since the terror groups’ most important strategic tool is to create horror and chaos at an international level with the least amenities and costs, Ghani’s exclusion approach has made it even more possible for the group[s] and has put the Hazaras in an extremely vulnerable position to those terror groups.”
Melbourne-based Hazara cartoonist Farhad Zahedi posted a cartoon featuring a bleeding television on a victim’s stationary at their home.
“How painful is the news from Kabul…,” he said.
Afghan Ministry of Interior spokesman Tariq Arian said security guards at the Kawsar-e Danish educational centre identified the bomber before he detonated explosives in the street full of students.
CCTV footage from the centre showed that the street was crowded with students before the explosion went off.
The health ministry said most of the victims were students aged 15 to 26.
At least 48 students died, and 68 others injured in the same area of Kabul during an attack on another education centre in August 2018, while in May, gunmen attacked a maternity ward, killing 24, including mothers and newborns.
Citing the 2018 attack and pointing at one of the centre’s overcrowded classrooms, an Australian Hazara commenter on a Facebook post by SBS Dari, said: “… when we are always getting bitten through the same whole, why are we not careful ourselves?”
“Why do we have hundreds of students in just one class?”
The latest attack comes on the back of heavy fighting in multiple provinces over recent weeks, which has displaced thousands of civilians in southern Helmand province.
Earlier this month, members of the Australian Hazara community warned that any peace deal with the Taliban may see the fundamental principles of human rights vanish from Afghanistan as they called on both sides involved in the negotiations to guarantee the safety of the country’s Hazaras.