To think Public Education is accessible to everyone comes from a privileged mindset, and many of us are unaware that there are women worldwide still fighting to the death to continue their education. Sadly, this is the case for Afghan women belonging to different ethnic and religious minorities and living under the control of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Between May and August 2020, the Taliban took over Afghanistan, creating a fearful world for Afghan women, reports The New York Times. Although months have passed since the Taliban’s capture, the Afghan people—including young women—have not given up on attending their school’s lectures. The consequences are often brutal; Trying to attend school could potentially mean losing their life. According to Al Jazeera, on September 30, 2022, a suicide bombing at a learning center at the Kaj education center in Dasht-e-Barchi murdered 35 students and injured at least 82. Dasht-e-Barchi is “home to a large Hazara community located in western Kabul,” according to the UN mission.
The recent attack on the Hazara community is not new and discrimination towards this group has been ongoing since the 1990s, according to the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Due to their different religious and ethnic identity, they have been a primary target for the Taliban. The Hazaras are primarily Shia Muslims, while the Taliban are fundamentalist Sunnis. Forbes depicts various explosions and murders of the community by the Taliban. One occurred on May 8, 2021, which resulted in the deaths of 85 people, and 240 were wounded. It is no surprise that most of the victims of the explosion were girls on their way to the Syed Al Shahada school. Another similar attack happened on May 12, 2020, and another on October 24, 2020, when a suicide bomber killed 40 students at an educational center. The Taliban have not just attacked the schools but also ceremonies and maternity clinics. They attacked a Hazara religious ceremony on March 6, 2020 and they killed mothers, newborns, and medical professionals at a maternity clinic on May 12, 2020. For Hazaras living under Taliban rule, their lives are in constant danger. The Sunni extremists do not want women to progress in any way in society.
The United States Holocaust Museum states these attacks: “The group has suffered social and economic marginalization and waves of physical attacks. Hazara schools and religious sites have been bombed, medical clinics targeted, and Hazara civilians murdered by the Taliban or IS-K.”
The dates of these ongoing attacks indicate that the attacks are primarily towards Hazara women and young girls. The Taliban has one purpose: to eradicate the Hazara people gradually. In simple words, it is genocide. Hazaras are an ethnic and religious minority that make up 20 percent of Afghanistan’s population.
Even though women from this faith have gone through immense pain, they have not given up. Among the tragedies includes a 19-year-old woman named Raihana who dreamed of becoming a doctor. According to Reuters, her dream died with her when she was killed in a suicide bombing in early October. She was diligently studying day and night for her university exam. Raihana’s parents tell the world her message, “‘If you have a chance, you should not miss it, and you have to do your best.” She indeed did her best in her last moments and died as a martyr. Even though she is no longer with us anymore, her message has impacted many in Afghanistan and the world.
That is why 50 women got out of their way after the explosion and took the risk to rally against the Taliban and the Sunni extremists. The women chanted, “Stop Hazara genocide; it is not a crime to be a Shia.” Is the pain in their chants for their loved ones strong enough to stop this genocide? It is heartbreaking that even after all these centuries women and minority groups have to fight to exist in a world without fear. Women and ethnic groups should never have to fear for their lives in order to receive an education, but this is a lesson the world has still failed to learn.