When 32-year-old Aliya reached the hospital closest to the site of a suicide bombing in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi area on Sunday, all she saw was bodies upon bodies; people dead and dying. “No matter what door I opened, there were bodies lying everywhere, some as little as four years old,” she said, between sobs.
A suicide bomber, associated with the Islamic State terror group, detonated a vest armed with explosives in an area crowded with people from the Shia Hazara minority. The attack was close to a school that also serves as a center to register for national ID cards, a document that Afghans will need to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Around 63 citizens were killed in the attack, with over 120 injured, according to latest reports from the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.
Aliya’s 14-year-old son was at the school when the explosion occurred and she sifted through many dead bodies before she found him. “He was among the dead. The doctor kept saying he had died because they couldn’t find his pulse,” she told Asia Times. “But I touched his heart and I could feel it beating.”
Aliya, a widow, fought to get medics to help her son, but when she couldn’t she took him to a different hospital. “They weren’t doing anything to save him. I had to fight to prove he was alive,” she said, waiting in the hospital for news on his health. Next to her, parents and relatives of many other injured anxiously waited to hear about their loved ones.
Meanwhile, another explosion close to a mosque serving as the local voter registration center in the northern province of Baghlan killed another six people, including three women and two children. Five others were injured in the blast, believed to have been caused by an improvised explosive device.
Concern over ballot, which the Taliban oppose
Baghlan has seen increased Taliban activity recently. Twice in the last month armed men associated with the Taliban have blown out power lines in the province, cutting off the electricity supply to Kabul.
Sunday’s attack on a voter registration center has also raised concern over the feasibility of the much-delayed election process.
Just last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the launch of voter registration, a process already delayed by nearly three years. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s biggest insurgent group, has rejected Ghani’s call to join the ballot and wants citizens to boycott the vote. The announcement of its stance has been followed by incidents across the country, with Sunday’s attack in Kabul the deadliest.
According to the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), several voter registration centers remain closed in areas across the troubled state due to security issues. Electoral officials hope to register 14 million Afghans over the next two months, while dodging insecurity and attacks.
Just last week, three IEC employees and two policemen were kidnapped by the Taliban in Ghor province. They were released soon after, but such dramas have cast a grim shadow on the possibility of a safe and fair election.
Anger in Kabul
Citizens in Kabul, who have faced increased acts of terrorism from various insurgencies in recent months, were angry about Sunday’s attack.
“It is a shame if after this Ashraf Ghani still thinks about standing for re-election. No one will vote for him here,” said 45-year-old Mariam, who had accompanied Aliya to hospitals to help find her son. “Ghani is sleeping while we are being killed,” she said, as others around her nodded in infuriated agreement.
Some chanted slogans demanding justice. “Why should we vote when everyone knows that foreigners will control everything anyway,” added a man waiting for news about his nephew’s health.
A distraught Aliya had a lot to say to the government officials. “Khaka da sarish menom (I will throw dirt on it),” she said, referring to the election process. “Why should I vote? We are dying every week, every month. Behind every door I saw dead bodies today… of little kids.. 4-5 years old. What was their sin?” she added angrily.
As the life of her only son hung in the balance, she vowed to campaign against the poll.“I will never vote and anyone who plans to vote, I will tell them to not do so because we don’t have a government. I don’t accept this government,” she said. “If anyone votes for any of these liars, they are equally bad people in the world.”