The Explosion

The Explosion
Parwin Maqsudi


On April 21, 2021, an explosion killed and maimed more than 150 girls. This is an imagined story of one girl and her mother during that tragically real incident.


The girl is getting ready to go to school in the afternoon, as the girls do in her school. She eats her lunch and puts on her school uniform: a white scarf with a black dress. Her blue bag in her hands, she slips on her black leather shoes decorated with flowers. The mother and daughter say goodbye to each other.

At around 4:00 p.m., the mother turns on the radio and starts cleaning the house. After a few minutes, she hears a news report on the radio. The announcer says, “There has been an explosion at the Sayed Shuhada School.”

This is the school the mother’s only daughter attends. Suddenly, the mother, her face pale, rushes to the door. As she runs out of the house, she pulls up her blue scarf from her shoulders to cover her head. “Oh, my God,” she cries. “Oh, my God!”

She takes her steps faster and faster, heading for her daughter’s school. Her only thought is, “Nothing has happened to my daughter who makes everyone happy with her smiles.”

At every moment, her daughter appears before her eyes. Black hair, arched eyebrows, big eyes, and her beautiful smile. The mother’s tears flow unconsciously, making it difficult for her even to walk. As she approaches the school, her heart beats faster. She gets closer. She sees that people are everywhere, people who are rescuing girls from inside the school and searching through the rubble.

She finds a girl who is drowning in blood. She can’t make out her face, but her shoes are black leather decorated with red flowers.

She is sure that it is her daughter, and hugs her, crying loudly. She remembers her daughter’s laughter for the last time.


Afghans have always witnessed bad events and heard terrible stories of things that happened to girls. This is one of those sad stories that happened on April 21, 2021, at the Sayed Shuhada School, at around 4:27 p.m. while female students were leaving the  Dasht-e-Barchi area of the 13th security district of Kabul. A huge explosion occurred, soon followed by two more. Apparently, IS-K took responsibility. However, eyewitnesses claimed the Security Services (NDS) of Afghanistan, with the support of the Taliban, carried out this horrible attack against female students.

I think there were three main reasons for this violent incident. First, all the girls belonged to the Hazara minority. The girls were attacked due to their ethnicity. Secondly, the girls were followers of the Shia sect of Islam. The IS-K and the Taliban oppose the Shia and attacked the girls because of their religion. Finally, the Taliban oppose education for girls and conducted the attack to give a clear message to all girls not to attend school any more. The Taliban oppose all women’s participation in public, social, economic and political affairs.

Reportedly more than 150 innocent girls were killed or injured. I was at home when I heard about the incident. I was shocked. I felt sick. I could not convince myself that human beings could carry out such an attack against innocent girls.

I was one of the lucky girls to be able to leave Afghanistan. I am happy that I have another opportunity to continue my education. Unfortunately, there are many girls in Afghanistan who have been deprived of their rights to study, work, and participate in social activities. Many don’t even have the right to life as they are not considered human. Under the Taliban rule, forced marriages and violence against women have increased. Whenever I think about those girls I left behind, it’s so painful.

Parwin Maqsudi was studying in the Medical Faculty of Katib University in Afghanistan. After the collapse of democratic government by Taliban, due to constant threats, she was obliged to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan with a group of girls and families.


Portrait: Marie Lannoo with Parwin Maqsod

Stepping into Colour

Mixed media

Size: 16” x 16” x 2”


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