Addressing an Ashura ceremony in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi area on Thursday, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the recent attacks on the Hazara and Shi’a community in the capital and said these attacks were attacks against the entire nation.
He said the country needs to stand together to defend the enemy adding that “I come to a place that is always under threat and I accepted this.”
Ghani also stated that the “terrorists attacking education centers, mosques and places of worship” do not follow a righteous path and that insurgents are trying to introduce sectarianism into the war. He said although they will not achieve this, it was still a big threat to the country.
Ghani stated “the voice of justice will prevail” and Afghanistan is a symbol of unity in the Muslim world as it is made up of different ethnic groups.
He said this was the time for the country to stand united and for everyone to stand against any such rifts.
He said “Sunni and Shi’a blood is the same color and the fate of Tajik, Pashtun and other groups are linked”.
Ghani said the enemies of the country were trying to create a rift between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims but that government was aware of this tactic.
He said changes have been made regarding the security of Kabul – especially in the west of the city – and that a fire department, an ambulance center and a hospital will be established in this part of the city.
He also pointed out that this war is not only claiming lives but it is having a tremendous phycological impact on civilians.
Ghani told Dasht-e-Barchi residents that he was open to discussions regarding their security and that their representatives could deal with him directly.
Dasht-e-Barchi has witnessed numerous attacks in recent months, which have claimed the lives of dozens of people.
In the most recent attack, over 20 people were killed in a double-bombing at a wrestling club in the area. Last month about 50 students at an education academy were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside their classroom.
This was just two in a string of attacks in the past year that have rocked the community.
Dasht-e-Barchi is a largely Shi’a neighborhood and Daesh insurgents claimed responsibility for the last two bombings.
For Shi’ites, Ashura, which falls on the 10th day of the month of Muharram, commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, one of Prophet Mohammad’s grandsons, and is marked by large public processions.
But on Wednesday Reuters reported that Afghan police and volunteer groups of armed civilians tightened controls across Kabul ahead of Ashura.
Heavily armed men stood at key points in areas like Dasht-e Barchi where many members of the Shi’ite Hazara community live.
Afghanistan, a largely Sunni Muslim country, has not suffered sectarian violence seen in countries like Iraq but hundreds of Shi’ites have been killed over recent years in attacks on shrines and other sites.
Reuters reported that government had distributed 500 weapons to Hazara groups for self-defense ahead of Ashura – a move that has fueled worries, even among some Hazaras, about the potential for armed private groups to undermine the rule of law.
A senior official in the interior ministry denied government had handed out weapons to Hazara groups but said security forces and the intelligence service were stepping up controls to head off any attack, Reuters reported.
This comes after the NDS reported on Tuesday that it had arrested 26 suspected Daesh militants in Kabul.