What you need to know about the latest bombings in Afghanistan
By: Devin Cowick, Program & Communications Consultant, Peace is Loud
Have you ever felt so angry, sad, and helpless that you wanted to both break things and curl up in a ball of tears? That’s how I felt a few weeks ago when I found out about the voting center bombings in Afghanistan.
Imagine going to register to vote with your whole family. You and your spouse are lined up to re-register for parliamentary elections that have been delayed for three years. You have brought your children with you to instill in them the importance of the democratic process.
Then a bomb goes off. And your world is completely turned upside down. A day that begins with the promise and hope of rebuilding a more peaceful country ends in death and destruction.
This is what Afghans experienced on Sunday, April 22nd when a suicide bomber attacked a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people and injuring more than 100 others. According to the Afghan police, 22 women and eight children were among those killed.
Who was behind this senseless, violent act? Daesh, commonly known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the bombing. This was the extremist group’s fourth attack on a voting center since registration for parliamentary and district council elections began just one week before.
Daesh’s news agency says the attack targeted Shiite “apostates,” but there are other unstated motives behind these civilian bombings: to turn the Afghan people against the government and undermine upcoming elections.
It may seem backwards to blame the government as Daesh is the actual source of violence, but it is the government that is failing to protect people from the attacks. As far as the elections go, Daesh is opposed to democratic elections in Afghanistan because it wants to establish an extreme form of Islamic rule in the country.
Daesh shares its status as an enemy of democracy and peace in Afghanistan with another Islamic fundamentalist group: the Taliban. In fact, before Daesh claimed responsibility for the voting center bombing, many Afghans blamed the Taliban for the attack. These two groups also share a desire to severely restrict the rights of women and girls.
In contrast to internationally-decentralized Daesh, the Taliban is a homegrown extremist group with a much larger presence and far greater influence in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has even announced it would be willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a ceasefire agreement.
The prospect of negotiations with the Taliban raises serious concerns about where that leaves Afghan women. When the Taliban was at the height of its power, Afghan women experienced extreme, violent oppression. They are known for harsh policies like banning women from leaving the home without a male relative.
Since the US military removed the Taliban from power seventeen years ago, Afghan women have won more access to public life through education, healthcare, employment, and politics.
All that progress could be rolled back if women’s rights become a bargaining chip during negotiations with the Taliban. This cannot be allowed to happen. But who is up to the task?
There is no one better to protect and promote the rights of Afghan women and girls than Afghan women political leaders. They have claimed 30 percent of parliament so far and are determined to maintain and expand their influence.
With more women in politics, there is hope for a better future. After all, women’s empowerment is the best indicator of a country’s peacefulness. The people of Afghanistan desperately need to keep hope alive for a peaceful, democratic country.
The horrific attack on April 22nd reminds us of how important it is to push forward with democracy-building efforts like Mina’s List’s 2018 Afghan Project, which consists of empowerment workshops, a mentorship program, and a campaign and fundraising app that could level the playing field for women political candidates in Afghanistan.