War & Peace

Reaction to the Kargha attack: start of a popular movement?


A group of young Afghan men and women gathered in Kargha’s Spuzhmai Hotel on 28 June to commemorate and condemn the attack that took place during the night of 21/22 June in which a still unknown number of civilians were killed. An estimated hundred and fifty participants gathered at the site and offered prayers for the souls of those killed and observed a minute’s silence to remember the families of the martyred. They also planted a rose bush in the yard of the hotel to show their commitment to continue such gatherings against targeting civilians. Gran Hewad attended the event and sees it as a possible sign that the younger generation is starting to take on responsibilities and seek new ways to stand against the violence.

People started arriving at the Spuzhmai Hotel on the shores of Kargha Lake at around three o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday. It was exactly a week since Taleban had stormed the hotel at midnight, killing people, taking others hostage and continuing the slaughter until they were all themselves killed many hours later. The organisers of the memorial had used Facebook to invite Afghan users to come and condemn last week’s attack.

Thursday is the first day of the two-day weekend in Kabul and a day during which people used to flock to the shores of Kargha Lake to breathe fresh air and do some sightseeing. The road to the lake which was almost always blocked with cars dropping families and friends at the lake side, on this Thursday, a week after the attack, was empty. The restaurants were deserted and the pleasure boats that were usually so busy, despite being expensive to hire, lay moored and still. An area, usually full of people, noise and Afghan music, felt frozen.

According to the daily newspaper ‘Hasht-e Sobh’ (8 am), one restaurant owner said the number of customers was down by almost ninety per cent, compared with regular days from before the attack. Deutsche Welle, also reporting on the event, quoted shopkeepers who lamented that the lake’s market was now ruled by wilderness.

The group walked around the building and saw the damaged restaurant and talked to the hotel owner who lost his brother in the attack. Though he was upset, he welcomed the gathering in a good manner. He showed the participants and media the sites where the gunmen had entrenched themselves and killed his customers. “My brother came into the restaurant, he had been distributing car parking tickets,” he said. “There had been fewer guests than normal on a Thursday night. Suddenly the attack started and the attackers shot my brother when they entered the restaurant.” He showed the group where dead bodies had been booby-trapped by the gunmen, blowing up and killing more people who had tried to move them.

The restaurant was badly damaged in the attack. Almost every square centimetre had holes from bullets and shrapnel. The once green and colourful flowering shrub that used to cover the front wall was burnt and the peacock who roamed the garden (see a picture of it in our earlier blog) has fled. Nevertheless, the reconstruction of the restaurant has begun.

The declaration of the gathering included condolences for the families of those killed and condemnation of the attack as barbarous and inhuman. Hopes were also expressed that this gathering would be the start of a popular movement against any brutal action against civilians by any party involved in the war, and that this would be an example of peaceful struggle against those who want to destroy Afghans’ lives. Although the event was different in scope and format from the uprising against the Taleban in Andardistrict of Ghazni (a blog analysing this event will follow in the next few days on this website), the organisers of the Kargha event argued that it was also very similar. Both, they say, are a sign that a popular movement might rise and grow.

The chances of mitigating civilian casualties on the Taleban side, for the moment, appear low. As UNAMA said, in a press statement on 26 June, 214 civilians had been killed or wounded only in that week, which also included the Kargha attack – almost all (98 per cent) by insurgents. At Kargha civilians were taken hostage and deliberately killed without heed to any war law or human right. Afghans themselves need to stand up to it. This may be a start.

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Thematic Category: War & Peace