Families establish library in memory of Afghan schoolgirls killed in bombing

Kabul, Mar 24 (EFE).- Right next to the graves of Marzia and Hajar Mohammadi, two cousins killed six months ago in a suicide bombing at an educational center in Kabul in which 54 people were killed, now stands a small library built by the their families.

Currently amounting to just a shelf full of books by the favorite authors of the two teenage girls – who belonged to the Shia Hazara minority – the library is a testament to their love for literature and and their dream to continue studying despite a Taliban ban on girls’ education.

“We know they loved books and being surrounded by them, therefore we placed books near their graves in the library,” Marzia’s sister Zahara Mohammadi told EFE.

The cousins and hundreds of other students were undergoing a practice test for university entrance exams on Sep. 30, 2022 at an educational center in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, dominated by the persecuted Hazara minority.

This is when a suicide bomber of Islamic State-Khorasan province – an Afghan branch of the terror group – broke into the classroom after a shootout and detonated himself, killing 54 people, most of them young girls.

The novels collected by the family members and classmates – most of them in Persian but some English ones too – include their favorite authors such as Turkish-origin novelist Elif Shafak and United States’ Rachel Hollis.

“One week after the Taliban takeover I come out of my home with a lot of fear, (…) but we visited the book store, and me and my teacher bought Elif Shafak’s book and returned home,” reads an entry in Marzia’s diary, shared with EFE by her sister.

“Today I understood how much I love being in the library and enjoy reading and looking at the books,” she adds.

While Hajar’s diary, shared by her aunt Nooria, records her dreams of “becoming an Engineer, being the president of a company with branches in different countries, having and playing guitar, talking in fluent English, having a red car, having a house near to beach made of wood, an apple computer,” and so on.

The Taliban had seized Kabul in August 2021 promising a more liberal government compared to their previous regime (1996-2001), when women had been confined to homes, but since then they have imposed a series of severe restrictions on women’s rights.

These include a total ban on higher education as well as on jobs in local and international nonprofits and women having to be accompanied by a mail companion in public places.

However, the young cousins had not given up on their dreams due to the Islamists’ restrictions and only started working harder, their families said.

“When girls students no longer knew if will they be allowed to participate in the university (entrance) exams, Marzia and Hajar started to study harder and spent most of their time together to motivate each other,” Zahara said.

Nooria recalled how the girls sought refuge in her room to study once when they had visitors.

“I am not saying this because they died, believe me, but they were so different, amazing, visionary, and lovable,” she said, adding that the girls were anxious to “not lose any time.”

Devastated by their own loss, the families still hope that the library can become a beacon of hope and inspiration for other young Afghans. EFE


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