Students say the Taliban poisoned their food to stop them protesting in Kabul

The night before students at a women’s dormitory at Kabul University were about to protest the deadly suicide attack on Kaaj education centre, they were all suddenly ill and believe the Taliban may have poisoned them to stop their demonstration.  

A student living in the dormitory who wants anonymity and asked Zan Times to call her Maryam, says “Our dinner was beans. Half an hour after we ate it, most of us got heartburn and nausea.” Maryam, who was one of the protest organizers, also says they were not allowed to leave to seek treatment. “It was night, there was no medicine in the dormitory clinic, and we were not allowed to go out and buy medicine.” But one of the roommates was allowed to be rushed to hospital after falling critically ill.  

“We know that the Taliban put something in our food in order to silence our voices, so that we are ill and the demonstration does not take place,” another student, who also fell ill after eating the dinner, tells Zan Times. “Although most of the time the food at the dormitory is not healthy, this time it was clear that the goal was to silence the students’ protests,” she emphasizes.  

A source at Kabul University confirms the mass illness incident to Zan Times, saying, “Girls from the Kabul University dormitory, whose total number are more than 1,500, planned to stage a demonstration on the grounds of Kabul University, but last night they were poisoned.” The source, who requested anonymity, also says that most of the women in the dormitory are Hazara.  

As a result of the mass illness, organizers cancelled the demonstration that was going to protest Friday’s deadly suicide bombing at the Kaaj education centre, in which at least 35 were killed and more than 80 students wounded. It’s one in a series of deadly attacks aimed at women, educational buildings as well as Hazaras and other non-Pashtun ethnic groups.    

People at the university don’t believe the timing is a coincidence. The Kabul University source says that while no one is sure how the plans for the demonstration were leaked to the Taliban, he and others are convinced the Taliban found out and used something to sicken the girls. “The Taliban were able to use the facilities in the dormitory to put something in the girls’ dinner and poison everyone,” he adds. 

Zahra, another female student who luckily was not in the dormitory last night, told Zan Times that the students were organizing the protest on a WhatsApp group, saying, “The exact time of the demonstration was announced, but a few moments later, I received a message that all the girls were poisoned and in poor health. Some girls are still in the hospital.” 

According to Etilaatroz, the women affected are all Hazaras and that around a dozen of them are seriously ill.  

These women ask all Afghans inside and outside Afghanistan not to abandon the Hazaras during this difficult situation and to raise their voices against the targeted and systematic killing of the Hazaras. 

Though the Kabul University demonstration planned for Sunday was canceled, female students of Herat University and Bamyan University also protested that day against the genocide of the Hazaras and were faced with the repression of the Taliban. On Saturday, female students gathered at the Kabul University of Education, but their protests were violently suppressed by the Taliban. In a statement, UNAMA also called for the Taliban to stop using weapons in dealing with peaceful demonstrators.