By: Ellaha Rasa
A campaign to establish a library in Kabul commemorated to the victims of the Kaaj education center bombing is gaining momentum, with groups as far as Herat, Balkh and Nimroz provinces collecting books for the cause.
A month since the deadly attack on Kaaj during a practice Kankor exam, organisers are determined to not let the deaths and sacrifices of the students be forgotten. They are collecting books through social media and going door-to-door with the goal of “perpetuating the name and memory of the ambitious people of Kaaj.”
Malika Malestani is running one of the book collection campaigns in Herat. She says she spends her days answering questions about the campaign on social media networks and also goes to houses to collect books being offered. She says she is excited with each book she receives as it means the goal is a step closer.
“The main motive of this campaign is to establish and collect books for the Kaaj library, so that young people and teenagers go to the library,” Malika says. “This way, everyone will remember the victims and wounded of the Kaaj tuition center.”
She hopes the library will help keep the memory of the Kaaj victims alive and would like to see the practice of donating books to libraries continue. She says the library has special meaning in the face of the attack on students, especially girls, who were pursuing their education.
“By launching the book collection campaign, we want to show that we still have a great desire to acquire knowledge,” she says. “It means we will not give up to any force like explosions or suicide attacks.”
Malika is leading the campaign in Herat along with four of her friends, Fatima Rezayi, Hakima Afshar, Qadrgol Rezayi, and Khadija Razawi. They posted on social media networks with a call-out about donating books and what it is for, and those who wish to can contact them directly by phone.
The idea for the library came from Fatima Rezayi, who works as a photographer and journalist in Herat. She says she is still in shock from the horrific events at Kaaj and the slaughter of dozens of students in the west of Kabul. After the incident, she felt the victims should not be forgotten.
Fatima says the ongoing suicide attacks and bombings that continue to target civilians are deeply concerning, especially in Hazara neighborhoods.
“Just one month ago, we lost our sisters and brothers in the attack on the Kaaj education center,” she tells Rukhshana Media. “We lost those who had high goals and great dreams, and now they are buried under the soil.”
She says that collecting books is a nod to those destroyed dreams.
“If people see a book in the hands of a girl in west Kabul today, they will remember the girls of Kaaj,” she says.
Fatima says the book collecting is coming along with great success.
“These books are a gift to the girls of Kaaj, who were people of books and pens, and we should honor their memory,” she says, adding that as word of the campaign spreads, the scope of the library is also growing.
“Herat residents have really welcomed the book donation campaign to build a rich library in Kabul,” she says. “The beauty of this story is that when someone calls, they tell us that they’ll inform their friends and acquaintances also, and if they have any books, they will deliver it to us.”
The reach of the campaign has surprised her, with shopkeepers and businessmen also making donations for the library.
“We expected a lot from the educated groups (who’ve been to school), but in this process, even shopkeepers and businessmen are contacting us to donate books,” she says.
The genre of books donated so far includes history, literature, motivational, and school text books. The organizers are open to receiving all types of books for the Kaaj library to be broad and diverse.
Khadija Ahmadi, 27, has donated eight books to support the book donation campaign.
The Herat Institute of Technology student cried when she first heard about the explosion at the Kaaj education center and it still brings tears to her eyes when she thinks about it.
Khadija says participating in the campaign and establishing the library is a step to fight against injustice and fight for the victims.
“The only thing I could do for the Kaaj victims was to donate books,” she says. “I wish the students of Kaaj could have achieved their dreams, but now that they cannot, we honor their memory by donating books.”
Morteza Rezayi, 25, is a stomatology graduate. He has donated four books to Kaaj library. He says the book collection campaign is important.
“By launching such a campaign, on the one hand, we can keep the memory of the victims of the Kaaj incident alive, and on the other hand, the establishment of a library will provide the basis for the development of the culture of reading and donating books,” he says.
After the bloody attack on the Kaaj educational center in west Kabul, Afghans in more than 100 cities around the world protested in the streets against the targeted killing of the ethnic group of Hazaras in Afghanistan.
With the hashtag #StopHazaraGenocide, protesters published photos of the victims, staged a theatre, music performances, candlelight poetry readings, murals, and paintings, and created graphic designers to honor the Kaaj victims and raise awareness about the high number of attacks on Hazaras.