The dying toll is rising, as is the concern of sending ladies to highschool: NPR

A man cried over the body of a victim of deadly bomb attacks near a school in a cemetery west of Kabul on Saturday. More than 50 people were killed in the attack, including many students between the ages of 11 and 15. More than 100 were wounded. Mariam Zuhaib / AP Hide caption

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Mariam Zuhaib / AP

A man cried over the body of a victim of deadly bomb attacks near a school in a cemetery west of Kabul on Saturday. More than 50 people were killed in the attack, including many students between the ages of 11 and 15. More than 100 were wounded.

Mariam Zuhaib / AP

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Ul-Shuhada School in Kabul was once a place of tentative hope. Impoverished Afghan children studied there: girls and boys who worked as carpet weavers to pay for their books. An Afghan aid group donated a library and teachers helped the students paint colorful murals.

On Saturday it became the site of one of Afghanistan’s worst attacks in at least a year when a series of explosions appeared to be targeted at its students.

Bomb attacks near the Kabul school kill at least 50, many of them girls

A car bomb and at least two other explosions exploded near the school gates as the girls and young women leaked, says Sharifa Danishjo, an 11th grade student who was wounded in the explosion.

“I heard the sound of the explosion, then everyone ran off screaming,” said Danishjo. “I ran back [toward the school] because my sister was still in class, but then another explosion happened. I saw a friend who was with me – but half her body was not there, from her waist down. “

Danishjo says she passed out then.

Afghans arrive on Monday for a memorial service for Masooma Nazari, a student who was killed near a school in Kabul on Saturday. Rahmat Gul / AP Hide caption

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Rahmat Gul / AP

Afghans arrive on Monday for a memorial service for Masooma Nazari, a student who was killed near a school in Kabul on Saturday.

Rahmat Gul / AP

According to Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, more than 50 people were killed, most of them girls and young women. The death toll can actually exceed 80.

As American and foreign forces retreat, some view the school attack as a sign as Afghan security forces face multiple simultaneous threats without US support for air strikes and local training.

The school – in the Dasht-e-Barchi district of Kabul, which has been repeatedly attacked – runs in multiple shifts, including one for high school girls in the afternoon. Saturday’s attack was timed on that particular shift.

When the car exploded, Ruqia Bakhahishi, a 14-year-old seventh grader, walked out of the gate. From her hospital room, she learned that splinters pierced her body and passers-by were taking her to a hospital, but it was already full of other wounded girls. They then took her to the Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital, where she underwent three operations on her legs and abdomen.

It was in this hospital that Muhammad Hassan finally found his 17-year-old daughter Tahira after searching debris, notebooks and shoes left behind after the attack.

Books, notebooks and other school supplies are scattered near a school in Kabul after the deadly bomb attack on Saturday. Mariam Zuhaib / AP Hide caption

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Mariam Zuhaib / AP

Books, notebooks and other school supplies are scattered near a school in Kabul after the deadly bomb attack on Saturday.

Mariam Zuhaib / AP

“She’s in shock,” he says. “She laughs and then cries for an hour. She beats herself. She says the attack keeps coming back on her.”

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they banned girls from going to school. In the two decades since her fall, activists, officials and international aid providers have built schools and tried to make them safe for girls. The results are mixed – but progress has also been made. About a third of all students in Afghan schools are girls, of whom more than 3.5 million are enrolled, according to the US Agency for International Development.

So this attack was particularly devastating.

“It felt like my heart had fallen off my chest – as if it had actually fallen to pieces,” says Freshta Karim, the founder of Charmaghz, an educational institution that operates five mobile libraries across Kabul. “Also, I have a moral dilemma right now. Should we ask children to go to school when schools aren’t safe for them? Can we do that?”

Many Afghan parents could keep their girls at home afterwards, warns Heather Barr, interim co-director of Human Rights Watch’s women’s rights division. Barr was previously an Afghan researcher for the group and spent days at Sayed Ul-Shuhada School while working on a report on education.

“Of course you want your child to get an education, but you are also afraid that they will go to school and not come home,” says Barr. “So I think this attack will drive thousands of girls out of school. At this level, it doesn’t matter who did it. It doesn’t matter if there will be more or not. It’s done and it’s about.” to cause the damage it will cause. “

No group took responsibility, but ISIS fighters have launched similar attacks in the same area of ​​Kabul that is predominantly Hazara – an ethnic minority that is predominantly Shiite, also a minority in a country that is predominantly Sunni.

The Taliban denied involvement in the attack. After that happened, they announced a three-day truce for the Eid holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan at the end of this week. The ceasefire is due to begin on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the moon’s sight.

American and other international forces are expected to depart by September 11th and remain in Afghanistan for two decades.

“The Afghan war is entering a new phase and it will be bloody [and] multilayered, “says Tamim Asey, chairman of the board of directors of the Institute for War and Peace Research, a Kabul-based think tank. This new phase” will contain elements of proxy war and civil war. “

Foreign forces leave the country no matter what, says Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

“President Biden was pretty sure that the main reason he decided to withdraw troops is because he believes that the terrorist threat anti-US interests … from Afghanistan is not a strong one is enough to justify the US armed forces remaining, “he says. “As horrific as this attack was, this is not the kind of thing that would cause the US to change course as these are attacks against Afghans.”

From their hospital, some of the girls who survived the attack are defiant.

While her father takes care of her, Tahira, the wounded 17-year-old, says she has a message for other Afghan girls: “Don’t bow down to this oppression. Go on with school.”

She’s going back too, she insists – as soon as she can.

Ghani reported from Kabul. Hadid reported from Sydney, Australia.

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