Living among the dead

Published On: August 25, 2018 01:10 AM NPT By: Rashmi Sheila

Rashmi Sheila

Rashmi Sheila

The contributor for Republica.

In Afghanistan, fear of death is rising. People do not dare to walk outside their homes. City roads get blocked after each incident

Last week there was a suicide attack in an education center in Kabul. This center used to help students get prepared for the university exam. Over 45 youngsters died and at least 67 were injured. The ones who survived endured both physical and mental trauma. There were two other attacks in April 2018. One, in a voting registration center that killed at least 57 people and injured 119. The other in “the Shash Darak neighborhood,” was a double suicide attack. Among the 36 dead were nine journalists who went to cover the incident of suicide attack which happened 20 minutes before the other attack. The second suicide attack that killed the journalists was undertaken by the bomber posing as a journalist on the scene of the first suicide attack.  Similarly, on January 26, 2018, there was another huge explosion in Kabul that took lives of more than 100 people, over two hundreds were injured and many dead bodies were not discovered. They disappeared without any trace. 

There are many other attacks that continue to happen in Kabul and different other places in Afghanistan killing many innocents every day. Most of the people that have been killed are the youth, future of the nation. Fear among people is rising, people do not dare to walk outside their homes. Most of the city roads get blocked after each incident and the security check has also increased. Despite all these insecurities, people still have to earn the means of survival, which leads them back to the city of deathbed.

Death becoming normal  
Death in Kabul has become very common. Everyday people die either as a result of an explosion or as a victim of gunshots or thefts. As for the survivors, life goes on. The city has adopted death and the people, the silence. It has not stopped people from living. “There is nothing we can do,” locals say when you speak with them. This is the age of irrationality, the age of anger and the age when religion is used as an instrument for extremism. People have forgotten to ask questions. They have forgotten to think and act accordingly. 

It is not only about Kabul, but also about many other countries where fanatic groups of people lead to death of hundreds of thousands for their selfish and illogical logics.

It is heartbreaking to see how people suffer the death of their loved ones. And it is more heartbreaking to read how people leave their home without knowing if they would come back again. I remember reading a news report where a freelance photographer mentioned of carrying a piece of paper with his name and other emergency details so that people get to know about him in case anything happens to him and inform his family about his misfortune. Many others have started doing the same. The sound of gun shots and blasts scares the shit out of people even when they are inside their house. For instance, on February 20, there was a thunderstorm. Even the sound of thunder panicked a lot of people, as a result of which many started posting on Facebook about hearing sound of blasts.

A while ago, two of my acquaintances told me how they were checking each passing by vehicles on their way to see if they find anything suspicious. To make the situation stress-free, they were even joking and giving statements like which drivers looked like suicide bombers. People try to normalize their everyday situation as nobody knows when and where what is going to happen. “People in Afghanistan carry their life in their fist,” one of my colleagues had said to me one day. He is not wrong. The day I was in Shar-e-Naw for some official works in July 2017, there was a bomb blast in Iraq Embassy that killed a number of people, including a security personnel. I was about 600 meters away from where the incident had happened. It reminded me of a friend who mentioned how people from his town used to get relieved hearing the sound of blasts. They used to thank God for granting them one more day of life.

Stop violence, save lives 
Due to these insecurities, every year the rate of people migrating from Afghanistan is increasing. For many, there is no value of money or property they hold in Afghanistan. Many educated and liberal minded youths have already left the country. Most of them had good earnings and owned tangible and intangible properties. However, they chose to leave all these behind for the safety of themselves and their families. They are scattered in North American and European countries, but many of them are not happy there. They have, first of all, become the second-class citizens, face all kinds of discriminations and become economically unsecured. One of them, a friend of my colleague, left his job as a Director in one of the NGOs in Kabul and is now an Uber driver in New York. He suffers an unbearable mental stress and regrets moving out of Afghanistan. 

Neither were they happy here due to deteriorating insecurities nor are they happy in their new country of residence because of the above mentioned reasons. All these realities are not unknown to people in Afghanistan. Those who are left behind are making efforts to leave the country legally or illegally.

Everywhere around the world, violence is increasing, killing humanity. In Syria, millions have become victims of civil war. In the attacks held in the name of fighting the rebel groups, many innocent people, including children, lose their lives. Israeli-Palestinian conflict is never ending. Jews and Palestinian Muslims war over the land has killed another bunch of people. Similarly, news of school shootings in different places in the US keeps making the headlines every now and then. Many studies have already pointed out how gun violence has killed more people in the US than terrorism.

Who is responsible for these violence and deaths? Is it the “state”, extremists or the citizens with limited power? Partially everyone is responsible. State, the opposition groups and the extremists are busy playing the power politics. In many cases, these attacks are even planned by any one of these to showcase their power. On the other hand, every citizen (including the ones yearning for peace) is responsible to some extent as they have not been able to overcome fear and to fight for the right to life in peace. 

History shows, things does not change until and unless everyone takes charge and fights back. All of us need to act now if we want to save our countries for the future generations.


The author, a freelance writer, is Program Manager at Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, Afghanistan.


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