Following the brutal beheading of seven Zabul residents by alleged Daesh members a few days ago, tens of thousands of people from around the country stood together and took to the streets and to social media platforms in protest over the killings.
People from across the country, of all ethnic groups, both young and old, male and female, marched through the streets of cities including Kabul, Jalalabad in Nangarhar, Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh, Herat city and Zabul city. Between Wednesday and Thursday, demonstrators marched in a total of 26 provinces.
Such public demonstrations have not been recorded in over 40 years in Afghanistan.
The incident shook the nation, as well as Afghans from around the world, who took to social media to express their outrage, their sympathy and their condolences with the people of Afghanistan.
Many used the opportunity to call for more security from government but also to voice their solidarity as Afghans – no matter their ethnicity.
One Facebook user said: “Long live the nation. We will have a brighter future only when we stand together as one nation, we have passed the darkness Inshallah.”
Another user said: “The nation of Afghanistan must be united, must work together, should abandon prejudice forever, and must work together for the rebuild of a prosperous, free and democratic Afghanistan with all honesty, integrity and selflessness.”
Yet another said: “The enemy should know that we are all parts of one body.”
“Long live to the unity of all people of our beloved country Afghanistan,” said another.
“We must be united. Taliban, Daesh or even the power of the world cannot challenge united people,” said another Facebook user.
This comes after Wednesday’s massive demonstration that saw over 20,000 people, representing all ethnic groups, march through the streets of Kabul carrying the coffins of the seven victims. Chanting slogans and carrying banners with anti-Taliban and anti-Daesh messages, people from all walks of life walked side-by-side and expressed their outrage over the incident.
The demonstration started in Dasht-e-Barche area of Kabul and ended eight kilometers away at the Presidential Palace. There demonstrators issued a list of demands, calling on the National Unity Government to ensure security for all Afghans and to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.
Many demonstrators called for unity.
“There is no need for tribe, zone, ethnicity and language for seeking justice but justice needs a clean conscience, courage and humanity,” said one the resident.
“The Zabul Seven incident was not related to one ethnicity but it is linked to all people and without any discrimination I am proud of people who have the courage to seek justice,” said another Kabul demonstrator.
During the course of the afternoon, organizers issued their demands. Shortly thereafter, a group of representatives from the organizers entered the Presidential Palace where they met with government officials.
However, at one stage security forces opened fire after a group tried to breach the gates of the Presidential Palace. Later, Sayed Zafar Hashemi, President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman, said 10 civilians had been wounded in the incident.
By Wednesday night, the majority of demonstrators had dispersed but about 2,00 were still gathered outside the Presidential Palace – despite the cold and wet weather.
A late night meeting was held between President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah, various ministers and demonstration representatives.
Ghani said during the meeting, which was televised live: “All of Afghanistan is in mourning today (following the beheading of the Zabul Seven).”
He said once again the enemy was at play – and was now trying to create ethnic divisions among the people.
He appealed to the nation to abstain from slamming the government and said in doing so people were inadvertently supporting the enemy.
“Government’s promises are not mere lip service,” he said adding that they were focusing on insecure areas where they are clearing insurgents.
Following the Kabul demonstration, other cities followed suit and on Wednesday night Mazar-e-Sharif residents held a candle light vigil in memory of those killed.
Social media messages also started pouring in and portrayed a real sense of unity among the people.
One Facebook user said: “Our pain and enemy is the same, let’s not blame each other but stand together. The enemy is trying to split us by different tricks and traps, we should unite as one nation at this stage.”
Another user said: “I’m proud of Afghanistan, people proved nothing can divide them.”