Inscription on tilework on a wall of the Great Mosque, Herat city, May 2021. Inscribed are some of the names of Allah, which are known as asma ullah al-husna (Arabic, “Allah’s beautiful names”), and also the name of the prophet Muhammad.
Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, has again come at a deeply unsettling and anxious time for Afghans. Even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take and harm lives, the war has intensified, appearing also to have become more indiscriminate and merciless. For the sake of Eid, the Taleban, as in the last few years, have announced a three-day ceasefire. The government has reciprocated, and also called for the ceasefire to continue. We can only hope it is extended and the warring parties seek peace in earnest in Afghanistan.
Many Afghans will not be celebrating Eid this year. Rather, they will be in mourning, after a bloody Ramadan. Two heinous attacks were exemplars of the horror of a war which appears to have become more ruthless. Both caused mass casualties, with school children lying among the dead and injured. On 30 April, a truck bomb targeting a guesthouse in Pul-e Alam city, Logar province, killed and injured more than one hundred people. Most of the victims, reported the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), were high school graduates staying so they could take the university entrance exam, and most of the boys, reported the BBC, were from just one village, Akbarkhel of Azra district (report here). Just over a week later, on 8 May, a car bomb and two IEDs were detonated outside a school in the Dasht-e Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul; 85 people, mostly girls, are so far known to have been killed, with almost 150 other civilians left wounded in what could only be interpreted as a sectarian attack on Shia Muslims from the Hazara community (report here). Neither attack was claimed.
These two massacres sent shockwaves across Afghanistan and the world, but were just the most spectacular among a slew of targeted killings and attacks, ambushes and air strikes that have taken many lives, destroyed homes and wrecked livelihoods, in the last few weeks. During Ramadan, reported the AIHRC, there was an increase in the number of civilians killed and injured. Even before the school attack in Kabul, it had documented 130 incidents, which resulted in 519 civilian casualties, 160 people killed and 351 injured. The New York Times war casualty report has also been counting the dead and injured in Afghanistan; for the grim details of just one week in Ramadan, see here. If the Afghan year 1400 continues as it has started (read a recent AAN analysis), Afghanistan looks set to have a bloody year ahead.
In such troubling times, we at AAN, like other people, cannot help but be grieved and saddened. We hope that this Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, brings a ceasefire longer than just three days. With wishes for a lasting peace to come to long-suffering Afghanistan, we are reminded that, as Saadi says in a poem inscribed on the Great Mosque in Herat, it is only our good traits and deeds that remain in this transient life, this fleeting world (AAN’s English translation).
شرف مرد به جود است و کرامت به سجود
هر که این هر دو ندارد عدمش به ز وجود
ای که در نعمت و نازی به جهان غره مشو
که محال است در این مرحله امکان خلود
ای که در شدت فقری و پریشان حالی
صبر کن کین دو سه روزی به سر آید معدود
دنیا آنقدر ندارد که برو رشک برند
ای برادر که نه محسود بماند نه حسود
A person’s honour lies in their generosity, as dignity lies in their humility
For the person who has none of these, it’s better not to be, than be
O you who live in wealth and luxury, don’t be proud of the world
For it’s impossible to be eternal here
O you who are in the throes of poverty and distress,
Be patient for these few days shall pass
The world has not much to envy
O brother, neither the one who is envied nor the one who envies shall remain
Photos by Reza Kazemi
This article was last updated on 13 May 2021