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Marzia And Hajar: The Best Friends Who Were Killed Together In Kabul Bombing


Marzia and Hajar Mohammadi pictured inside the Kaaj Education Center, where they were killed in a suicide bombing on September 30

Marzia and Hajar Mohammadi, cousins and best friends, were inseparable during their short lives. Now, the young Afghan women are buried next to each other in a graveyard in western Kabul.

The 18-year-olds were among the nearly 60 people, mostly girls and women, who were killed when a bomb tore through a packed educational center in the Afghan capital on September 30.

No group has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which triggered international condemnation and sparked days of protests by women across Afghanistan. The attack occurred in Dasht-e Barchi, an area in Kabul that is predominantly inhabited by members of the Shi’ite Hazara community.

"They were so attached that they spent 12 out of every 24 hours together," Maryam Mohammadi, Marzia’s mother, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. "They did everything together."

That included reading the works of their favorite writer -- the Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak and American author Rachel Hollis.

"Both were eager to meet their two favorite writers," Abdul Zahir Mudaqiq, Marzia's uncle, told Radio Azadi.

A memorial to the childhood friends includes books by the girls' favorite authors, whom they both had dreamed of meeting one day.
A memorial to the childhood friends includes books by the girls' favorite authors, whom they both had dreamed of meeting one day.

Marzia's diary reveals that meeting Shafak was on her bucket list, which also included learning how to ride a bike and play the guitar, walking in the park at night, visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and eating pizza at an Italian restaurant.

"No excuses, with or without electricity, I have to continue my studies," Marzia wrote on another page in her diary. "I have to prove to myself that I'm stronger. Marzia can do it. I believe [in] her."

But those dreams ended when Marzia and Hajar lost their lives in the bombing at the Kaaj Higher Education Center in Kabul. Hundreds of students were packed inside the center, some taking practice university exams, when the suicide bomber struck.

Marzia's elder sister, Aneesa, said both young women aimed to get top marks in the upcoming exams.

"She wanted me to take many pictures of her so I could add the best one to her Facebook profile photo if she topped the exam," she recalled. "Now, I have a photo of her grave as my profile photo.”

Following the attack, Hajar's father, Ghulam Ali, rushed to nearby hospitals in search for his daughter.

Marzia and Hajar spent "12 out of every 24 hours" together, said Marzia's mother.
Marzia and Hajar spent "12 out of every 24 hours" together, said Marzia's mother.

"I found Marzia's corpse in the hospital and Hajar in another one," he told Radio Azadi. "They were barely recognizable."

The bombing at the educational center triggered some of the largest and most sustained protests against Taliban rule since the militant group seized power last year.

Defying the Taliban's ban on unsanctioned rallies, women held rallies in the cities of Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Ghazni and the provinces of Bamiyan and Kapisa from October 1-4.

The protesters rallied against the Taliban government’s restrictions on female education and its inability to protect ethnic and religious minorities.

The attack was the latest against Hazaras, a long-persecuted minority in Afghanistan.

Hajar and Marzia were cousins and best friends since early childhood.
Hajar and Marzia were cousins and best friends since early childhood.

During its oppressive rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban terrorized Hazaras, wrestling control of Hazara regions in Afghanistan through a campaign of targeted killings. Since seizing control of Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban has tried to assuage Hazaras' fears of discrimination and persecution, although rights groups have documented the evictions of Hazaras by the Taliban in parts of the country.

Most of the attacks on Hazaras have been blamed on the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) extremist group, which considers Shi'a as apostates who should be killed.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month, IS-K has claimed responsibility for 13 attacks against Hazaras and has been linked to at least three more since August 2021. These attacks killed and injured at least 700 people, said HRW.

Despite the latest attack against the community, many Hazaras remain defiant.

Hajar's mother, Aziza Mohammadi, said she is determined to educate her three remaining children.

"We are not afraid of death and still want to educate our children," she told Radio Azadi.

For Marzia's mother, Maryam, educating her seven children has been a lifelong mission. She herself never went to school.

"The current [Taliban] government must ensure our security," she told Radio Azadi. "I don't want my other children to end up like Marzia."

Written by Abubakar Siddique based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi
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