Over the last few weeks, I have been writing (Part 1, Part 2) about a gruesome attack on a maternity ward in Dasht-e-Barchi’s hospital in Kabul Afghanistan – and – though it has now been three weeks since that attack, the agonizing screams and cries of the victims which shook the world to its core will forever resonate in our memories.
Afghanistan has been plagued with violence and war for the better part of its history but nevertheless this latest attack has raised the fears of the Hazaras to new heights. They have been attacked at prayer time in mosques, on their way to school, or even working out at a gym – but – never before were newborns as young as one hour old ever so brutally and selectively slaughtered.
Baby Maryam’s father Akram, had to identify his wife’s corpse by one of her feet. There was simply nothing left of her body to properly identify her according to a devasted Akram. In the minutes after the attack, Akram like many other families, rushed towards the hospital’s gates to try to find his wife and newborn child. It would take Akram hours of excruciating searching to find his infant daughter across town in the Turkish-funded Ataturk hospital.
Akram’s wife was killed in the horrific attack shortly after she had given birth to their daughter, Maryam. Image Source: AFP/W. Kohsar
Outside by the main gates, waiting for their mother who was inside the hospital at the time, Mahdia, 7, and her sister Razia, 8, along with their grandmother Zahra were among the first victims to be shot by the gunmen. In the span of one morning, their father Mohammad Assef, lost his mother, two daughters, and wife. Now Mohammed Assef must look after his newborn daughter alone.
The final tally of casualties amounted to 20 killed including 2 newborns. Of the surviving newborns, 19 were relocated to the Ataturk hospital while 1 infant with severe orthopedic issues was sent to the Indira-Gandhi hospital in Kabul.
Thankfully volunteers such as Aziza Kermani, mother to a 4-month-old baby, or Khadija, another mother who had survived the attack with her 3-year-old child, all rushed back to the scene to breastfeed the newborns that had been abruptly orphaned within hours of their birth.
While – three weeks after the attack – all of the children have been securely transferred to their legal guardians or next of kin, much work remains to be done.
The trail of blood, pain, and scars that this barbaric act has left behind will be forever hatched in the memories of those few innocent infants that miraculously survived that nightmare. Each mother that has been killed has left behind their loved ones in an indescribable sorrow.
This tragedy leaves us all in pain as we continue to think of ways to ensure this never happens again. Together we must stand up and elevate the voices of those who are most vulnerable. We must know and remember the victims of senseless acts of violence, we must never allow ourselves to forget them.