Thousands of angry demonstrators have taken to the streets of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in protest against the killing of seven Shia Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority by suspected Taliban militants.
On Wednesday, the protesters converged in the rain in Kabul’s western Mazari Square to express their resentment over the horrendous killings and the government’s failure to ensure security in the country.
The marchers, carrying the coffins of the victims draped in green cloth and holding their photos, chanted “Death to the Taliban” and called on President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to step down. The protesters walked to the presidential palace.
“The only way to prevent such crimes in the future is to take over all government offices until they wake up and make a decision,” 40-year-old demonstrator Sayed Karim said.
“We want justice and we want this government, Ghani and Abdullah, to go so that we can have a government that protects all the people of the country and brings security to the whole country,” civil society activist Zahra Sepehr, one of the protest organizers, said.
She added the deaths of the seven Afghans were proof that there is no security across Afghanistan.
A demonstrator, who identified herself only as Sohaila, said, “We’re from this country. We have to have the same rights as other citizens.”
Ghani has condemned the killings and promised an investigation.
The United Nations (UN)’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, in a statement decried the deaths as a violation of the international law.
“These senseless murders may amount to war crimes and the perpetrators must be held accountable,” he said.
The bodies of seven Hazaras, including four men, two women and a child, were found partially beheaded in Zabul Province on Saturday. They had been kidnapped in neighboring Ghazni Province nearly six months ago.
The Afghan Taliban group has reportedly denied having carried out the killings and blamed rival Daesh for the deaths. However, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, has dismissed the allegation by the Taliban.
Hazara Shia Muslims have been targeted in several large-scale kidnappings across Afghanistan this year, which have prompted demonstrations and sit-ins in Kabul and elsewhere.
Members of the community account for about 22 percent of Afghanistan’s population.
Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity 14 years after the United States and its allies attacked the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. Although the 2001 attack overthrew the Taliban, many areas across Afghanistan still face violence and insecurity.