It has been a year since Antiqullah Tanha’s wife was murdered in a series of cold-blooded killings at a maternity hospital in Kabul, leaving their twin daughters motherless.
“They cry a lot at night,” Tanha told AFP, saying the children were often sick.
“The doctor says breast milk would have helped prevent most health problems. “
Even in a war-weary country already deeply scarred by decades of conflict, the massacre of 16 mothers and expectant mothers in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul has caused horror.
International groups have issued bold condemnation statements, while Afghan politicians have denounced the violence and pledged justice, though the assault – which left 25 people dead in total – has not been called for.
But, like most attacks in Afghanistan, there was little to no follow-up.
On Saturday alone, a series of bombs targeting a school in the same neighborhood – largely populated by Hazara Shiites – killed more than 50 people, most of them schoolgirls.
Few expect the authorities to track down the perpetrators of the latest carnage – or prevent similar killings in the future.
And those fears are growing as Washington and NATO accelerate the withdrawal of their troops, leaving Afghan government forces to fend for themselves and protect the vulnerable population.
Still, many had hoped that the sheer savagery of last year’s attack would finally bring about change.
– Give birth hidden –
On May 12, three armed men ransacked the hospital, slaughtering mothers in their beds and forcing many pregnant women to hide in safe rooms, where one of them gave birth.
An infant, just hours after giving birth, was shot in the leg, but survived.
Immediately afterwards, several women volunteered to help.
“Being a mother myself, I feel their pain,” said Ghazal Sharifi, a speaker, who with her friends collects help for babies.
“No one is like their (real) mother… but we still have several women who go to their homes to feed them. “
A few weeks after the attack, Médecins sans frontières (MSF), an international medical charity that ran the service, withdrew from the facility.
“The attackers also left women and babies without access to essential medical care,” said Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations.
The Afghan government continued to blame the Taliban, but Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said no arrests had ever taken place.
The United States, however, blamed the Islamic State group.
“No evidence has been provided publicly to support these claims,” Defourny told AFP.
“Since then, MSF has only received oral information that an Afghan investigation into the attack was underway,” she said.
– Little hope for justice –
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict as US and international troops withdraw.
And there is little certainty that the already defeated Afghan security forces will be able to turn the tide of the war, as peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government slow down.
There is also little hope that brutality will be done justice.
“One thing is clear is that the Afghan government has not done a very credible job investigating previous attacks,” Heather Barr, co-director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights, told AFP. Watch, a few days after the school explosion.
“(They should) really try to figure out who did this and hold them accountable. “
Tanha and her family are still coming to terms with the tragedy.
“My oldest daughter Zakia asks her mother the most,” he said as the twins played on his lap.
A year later, Akram Muradi, resident of Dasht-e-Barchi, still cannot understand the events of that day.
He had just left the maternity ward after his wife gave birth to their daughter, Maryam, when he received a call saying the facility was under attack.
“No one would believe that someone would attack such a place and slaughter mothers who give birth,” he said.
He rushed back, hoping to find his wife, frantically calling his cell phone before hearing the ringing from a nearby body bag.
“It was the saddest moment of my life,” said Muradi.
Muradi still bristles at the government’s inability to find those responsible.
“I have no hope that they will be found,” he said.
“I am now looking for a way to get my children out of the country… I have lost all hope for Afghanistan. “
© 2021 AFP