In Kabul

Sophie Cousins

Three gunmen stormed Kabul University on Monday, taking dozens of hostages as hundreds of students fled for their lives. The six-hour siege, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, left at least 35 students dead and many more injured. Jamshid, an economics student, was in class. ‘We were listening to the teacher when the electricity went out and the attack began,’ he told me. ‘If we stayed in the classroom, I thought that maybe the terrorists will kill me and my classmates.’ He managed to escape. Sara, Daoud, Rauf, Ali, Husna and Ahmad did not. The list goes on. They were going to be teachers, nurses, scholars, writers, artists, public administrators, economists.

It was the second attack on an educational institution in the Afghan capital in just over a week. On 24 October, there was a suicide bombing in west Kabul outside the Kawsar-e Danish educational centre. It, too, was claimed by the Islamic State. The blast killed 24 people and injured dozens more, mostly children and adolescents. ‘Now I feel that no one in Afghanistan is safe,’ Jamshid says. ‘Even attending classes, we are not safe.’

The attacks took place as negotiators from the Taliban and the Afghan government are holding peace talks in Doha. A conditional deal between the US and the Taliban in February, which would see the withdrawal of Nato troops from the country next year, prepared the ground for negotiations. The talks in Qatar, however, are stagnant.

Yesterday afternoon, stuck in traffic in the choked Afghan capital, my taxi driver turned to me and said: ‘They killed them. Why? Why are they not allowed to study? I want my children to study but how can I send them to school? I think I’m finished. I can’t make it here. There is no peace. We will only have freedom when we have peace.’