We Lost Our Beloved Ones For The Sake Of Education – “I want to tell the terrorists that no matter how much oppression you impose on us, you will not be able to defeat us!” she said to News.
Fatima Amiri first heard gunshots from inside her classroom in Kabul, Afghanistan, early in the morning. At the time, she and hundreds of other students were studying for college entrance exams, but the girls began screaming in fear. Amiri quickly stood up to calm down the class, but when she turned around, she saw a man with a gun openly firing at students.
“I was scared; I tried to take cover under the desks when there was an explosion,” the 17-year-old said.
As a result of the explosion, Amiri lost an eye and an eardrum. Her jaw had also been severely damaged. In total, 54 other students were killed, the majority of whom were female.
Shiites in Afghanistan have long been targeted and persecuted as a minority.
Amiri lives in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of western Kabul, which is predominantly Shiite. Terrorists have targeted Shia mosques, schools, athletic clubs, and cultural institutions. In 2020, a horrific attack on a maternity ward killed 20 civilians, including women and their newborn babies.
Amiri was aware that going to school was dangerous from a security standpoint. She never imagined that one day a terrorist would try to kill her inside a classroom.
Undaunted, Amiri took a university entrance exam two weeks after the attack and was named one of the top scorers.
“I want to tell the terrorists that no matter how much oppression you impose on us, you will never be able to defeat us!” Amiri stated. “Your attacks motivate us to keep rising.”
The United Nations Security Council and other world leaders condemned the attack on the Kaaj education centre in Kabul, where Amiri had gone for two years to prepare for the university entrance exam, but no robust security measures had been implemented by Afghanistan’s political regimes to ensure the safety of Shiites, who now feel more marginalised under the Taliban.
Amiri was named to the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2022 in recognition of her bravery and resilience.
The attack followed the Taliban’s ban on girls’ schools beyond the sixth grade in Afghanistan after the group took power in the summer of 2021. However, young Afghans like Amiri remain hopeful that the international community will put pressure on Taliban leaders to respect girls’ right to education and women’s right to work.
“I call on the international community to help Afghan women and girls,” she said. “Listen to their voice and act. Girls’ schools have been closed for nearly two years. There is a chance that the university will also close. The current situation is difficult. Afghan women and girls are unable to work.”
Amiri’s prediction of a restriction on higher education for girls was proven correct when the Taliban banned women from attending university on December 20. Five days later, the regime also directed nongovernmental organisations to prevent women from reporting to work. Although the international community has strongly condemned the ban on women’s access to education and employment, Taliban leaders have stated that they will not compromise.
“We had hoped that the schools for our girls would be reopened,” Amiri said. “However, this time we were confronted with the worst-case scenario. They decided to close the university. This approach should not be tolerated by the rest of the world. We sacrificed our loved ones for the sake of education. But now I can’t go to university because I lost my eye.”
Attacks on Shiites and Hazara ethnic groups have a long history in Afghanistan. Terrorists detonated a bomb near the Sayed-ul-Shuhada girls school in the same area last May, killing at least 85 girls and injuring hundreds more, many of them aged 11 to 15.
Last month, Richard Bennett, the US special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, stated in a report that Shiites in Afghanistan are subjected to systematic attacks, citing members of the Hazara community and other groups who have been “arbitrarily arrested, tortured, summarily executed, displaced from traditional lands, subjected to discriminatory taxation, and otherwise marginalised.”
“These attacks appear to be systematic in nature and reflect elements of an organisational policy,” Bennett wrote in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
According to Human Rights Watch, Taliban authorities have done little to protect these communities from the Islamic State of Khorasan Province, Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate, or to provide victims and their families with necessary medical care and other assistance.
According to the report, the ISIS affiliate has claimed responsibility for 13 attacks against Hazaras and has been linked to at least three more, killing and injuring at least 700 people since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.
Csaba Krösi, president of the United Nations General Assembly, stated in November that Afghanistan “faces complex and interconnected challenges that the Taliban have demonstrated they cannot — or will not — solve.”
“Afghanistan is now the only state in the world that would deny girls their full right to education. “The Taliban’s seemingly random edicts have left the prospect of girls’ education in limbo,” he said.
However, the Taliban have so far defied international calls to reopen schools and pave the way for the formation of a political system that includes all ethnic groups. For young women like Amiri, however, institutional opposition fuels her determination to pursue her dreams on behalf of other Afghan girls, despite the risks of death.
Her ambition has grown far beyond her original plan to obtain an education in her preferred field of study. She aspires to lead Afghan women and help them secure a bright future.
“I am extremely strong,” Amiri stated. “I am confident that I will achieve my goals one day.”