On Saturday, as hundreds of young students were leaving their classes for the day to meet their parents, the unthinkable happened. Just as all these small humans were walking into the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, terrorists detonated car bombs sending molten hot metal shrapnel through the crowd.

This event was quickly overshadowed by a reignition of the Israeli-Palestinian feud, Elon Musk appearing on SNL, and a myriad of other stories. Afghanistan children withstood the deadliest terrorist attack of the year on May 8, and the world mostly shrugged it off.

attack on Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school

The attack on Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school in the mostly Hazara Dashte Barchi area of the capital city is just one more in a long line of terrorist events aimed at Hazaras, one of the most persecuted Afghan ancestral groups. Groups like the Taliban, AQ, and IS-K target the Hazara often for their religious sect, they are Shi’a in a Sunni majority nation. Their persecution and treatment is a long-running issue for Afghans.

The death toll as of today is approaching 90 people with two or three times that wounded. The streets were full as the citizens prepared for Ramadan celebrations and the sun moved towards the West. There were 2,000 girls present at the school at the time of the attack on them.

Impact in Afghanistan

The impact inside Afghanistan was like a kick in the gut to most. I was preparing for a group meeting with a veteran senior reporter just after the bombing took place. He was gutted and visibly shaken as he lived near the school and was watching the events unfold. Our meeting was quickly postponed, but a later event on Clubhouse to discuss the future of the Afghan peace process was not. Afghans from around the world Saturday night angrily asked me and my fellow panelist when the world was going to take action against nations like Pakistan who provided safe havens for the Taliban and their terrorist network.

The Afghan President declared Tuesday a day of mourning and Afghans around the globe held memorial events to honor the children so senselessly taken by terrorists right in front of their friends and family. Other Afghans began conspiracy theories aimed to lay the blame on the government, as if they had insider knowledge into the terrorism campaign. Most were just angry and felt hopeless that the Taliban would never end their war on Afghans and the terrorism would continue. In their grief, Afghans are rightly lashing out.

Women in Afghanistan

Images also circulated online showing the lengths that young women go to every day in Afghanistan to get to school. One girl was shown climbing a wall with the use of stacked stones to get into the schoolyard. Another was shown using a rope guideline to wade across a fast-moving river to get to her classroom. There is no doubt that women have made great strides in Afghanistan over the last two decades since the Taliban regime was ousted. But many wonder if gains will be reversed in the future and are calling for protections to ensure they are not.

Looking Ahead

It is hard to say what lies ahead for Afghans. Following the heinous terrorist attack on school children the Taliban leadership announced they would carry out a temporary ceasefire during the Eid that marks the end of Ramadan. They caveated this announcement with a warning to their rented fighters that they would not be allowed to talk to non-Taliban Afghans or allow non-Taliban Afghans to move inside territory they monitor.  The Islamic republic of Afghanistan said that they too would enter a ceasefire during Eid.

While things can often feel hopeless in Afghanistan, there are always signs of compassion, patriotism, and even a bright future if you look for them. For example, this morning, Afghan social media users were proud to display an image of a national sports hero, MMA champion Hussain Bakhsh Safari, as he stood on the streets holding up two of his gold medals and offering to use them to raise money to care for the injured Afghans in the Kabul and recent Logar terrorist attacks. Most of all right now, Afghans want to know how they can get better protection from terrorists, especially in Kabul. Afghans are tired of seeing the ground littered with bloody books and tiny backpacks. The world should be too.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.