Afghanistan, which is ranked the third most dangerous country in the world, has been dealt a hard blow in the past two weeks due to a serious spike in violence across the country.
Among the incidents was last Wednesday’s suicide bombing inside a classroom at Mawoud educational center in Kabul’s newly established PD18.
According to reports and eyewitnesses, there were as many as 300 students inside the classroom when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
Some reports have put the death toll at 65, in what was a horrific attack claimed by Daesh.
All the victims were under the age of 20, some as young as 14 and most came from poor Afghan families living in rural areas.
The victims were all taking classes in preparation for next year’s university entrance exam, known as Kankor.
Although the attack brought intense pain and devastation to the families of the victims – and to Afghans around the country – many people have said that such attacks will not destroy their hopes and dreams of change, education and a better future.
One family of a young victim, Madina, said they would not hold prayers ceremonies for their daughter and instead would give the money to five students to pursue secondary and higher education.
Madina, who was from central Daikundi province, sustained serious injuries in the attack and died two days later in hospital.
Her father, Essmaiel Laly, said although he is devastated by the loss of his daughter, he will not give up on encouraging girls and boys to continue their education.
Laly said his daughter’s death has motivated him even more to encourage the youth to get a good education.
“If they (the enemy) think that they can stop us, they are wrong. We are unstoppable. I will allocate the money for the prayer ceremonies to five students so they can continue theireducation. If they deprive one (from education), we will fund five and will send them to get an education,” said Laly.
The classroom suicide attack was one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul in the past few months – an attack that left the city in shock.
But the resilience of Afghans was clear a day after the attack, when two injured students – both with heads and hands bandaged – were back in class as usual.
Again, just four days after the deadly bombing, thousands of Afghans gathered at the Football Federation’s stadium in Kabul to watch a friendly football match between national teams of Afghanistan and Palestine.
Police forces were stationed around the stadium and entrances were under tight security. Every spectator was carefully searched before being allowed to enter the stadium.
This was the first football match against a visiting team in almost five years – simply because of the security situation.
Despite the serious threats lodged against the stadium and the match in the run up to the game, which was held on the 99th anniversary of Independence Day, thousands of excited fans put aside their fears and packed the stadium.
Waving the country’s flag and cheering for their team, a happy scenario played out – which included dozens of women and girls who had also come out to watch the night match.
It is times like this that are testimony to the hopes and dreams of Afghans – of how they are able to put aside the horrors of the war, and remain optimistic that one day peace will be achieved.
However, battles had been ongoing in the lead up to Eid-al-Adha in at least 12 provinces – with the Taliban having consistently attacked security forces check posts, out posts, districts and even provinces.
Almost two weeks ago, the group launched a massive coordinated attack on Ghazi city, one of the closest provinces to the Afghan capital.
An estimated 1,000 Taliban fighters stormed the city in the early hours of August 10 and held the city under siege for four days.
This attack reportedly killed over 100 security forces as well as civilians.
According to the Red Crescent at least 250 people were killed during the battle and more than one hundred, including civilians, were wounded. At the same time, Taliban attacked a military base in Ghormach’s Faryab province killing 18 soldiers and abducting over 45 others. In provinces like Zabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar and Baghlan security forces also suffered heavy losses last week.
President Ashraf Ghani, however, decided to go ahead with a conditional ceasefire on the eve of Independence Day. In an address to the nation he announced the conditional ceasefire with the Taliban, for three months.
During his announcement, Ghani said: “… we announce a ceasefire that would take effect from tomorrow, Monday, the day of Arafa till the birthday of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Mila-un-Nabi, provided that the Taliban reciprocates.”
Taliban however have failed to respond – despite having called a three-day truce over Eid-ul-Fitr.
During this three-day truce in June, thousands of Taliban fighters entered cities where scenes of celebrations were seen. Kabul was among the cities they entered, and over the three days, scenes of unity were seen with Taliban fighters hugging security forces, taking selfies with security forces and in one area of Kabul they were even welcomed by the Afghan Minister of Interior Wais Barmak.
This time around however, no truce was called by the Taliban and the first day of Eid was marred by a serious mortar attack on Kabul city – yet another attack claimed by Daesh.
Some official estimates put the number of attackers at nine and say approximately 30 mortars were fired off – many of which targeted the Presidential Palace.
While members of the public welcomed the June ceasefire, and the short-lived sense of peace that went with it, people were not as hopeful about a ceasefire this time around.
Never-the-less, despite the turmoil of the past two weeks – and the hundreds of deaths of civilians and security forces in this time - Afghans continue to hold onto the hope of a long-term and lasting ceasefire that will eventually result in peace.
People’s Peace Movement, Herat Disabled Peace Convoy and other peace-oriented groups are proof of the growing demands by the people for peace and testimony to the fact that no insurgent group has been able to kill the hopes and aspirations of Afghans who simply want the war to end.