KABUL (Dispatches) --
Women from Afghanistan’s minority Hazara community protested in the capital Saturday after a suicide bombing a day earlier killed at least 35 people - mostly young women from the ethnic group.
A terrorist blew himself up on Friday at a Kabul study hall as hundreds of pupils were taking tests in preparation for university entrance exams in the city’s Dasht-e-Barchi area.
The western neighborhood is a predominantly Shia Muslim enclave and home to the minority Hazara community - a historically oppressed group that has been targeted in some of Afghanistan’s most brutal attacks in recent years.
Police said at least 20 people were killed but the United Nations mission in Afghanistan considers the number to be higher, with at least 35 fatalities and an additional 82 wounded.
On Saturday about 50 women chanted, “Stop Hazara genocide, it’s not a crime to be a Shia”, as they marched past a hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi where several victims of the attack were being treated.
Dressed in black hijabs and headscarves, angry protesters carried banners that read: “Stop killing Hazaras”, an AFP correspondent reported.
Witnesses have said that the suicide attacker detonated in the women’s section of the gender-segregated hall.
“Yesterday’s attack was against the Hazaras and Hazara girls,” protester Farzana Ahmadi, 19, told AFP. “We demand a stop to this genocide. We staged the protest to demand our rights.”
Protesters later gathered in front of the hospital and chanted slogans as dozens of heavily armed Taliban, some carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, kept watch.
Since the hardline Taliban returned to power last August, women’s protests have become risky, with numerous demonstrators detained and rallies broken up by Taliban forces firing shots in the air.