What started out as a peaceful demonstration of people power had turned violent by Wednesday afternoon. Police fired on protesters attempting to storm the presidential palace, with media reporting eight injured at 4:00 p.m.
The crowd, according to some estimates, numbered more than 20,000. Some chanted ”justice!” while others, less peaceably inclined, shouted “Death to the Taliban!” “Death to Da’esh!” or even “Death to the government!”
It was a day when people all over Afghanistan sat glued to their televisions, trying to follow the breaking news. The tech-savvy monitored Twitter and Facebook, where discussions, sometimes heated, closely mirrored events.
The cause of all the furore was the beheading of seven hostages — including women and children — in the southern province of Zabul. The slain were members of the Hazara ethnic minority, who had been captured some five? months ago by militants Ghazni province.
It is still not known who kidnapped them; it is also not completely clear who killed them. The government just says it was terrorists; the Taliban claim it was members of D’esh, as the Islamic State is known in this part of the world. Still others say it makes little difference; those calling themselves Da’esh are simply members of Taliban splinter groups, who are now warring among themselves.
But for the thousands who turned out in the cold and rain to carry the bodies through the streets of the capital, it was clear where the blame lay: the coffins were placed in front of the presidential palace, the Arg.
— Kabul Jamiat Council (@JamiatKabul) November 11, 2015
The dead had had a long and arduous journey to that exalted place. They had been taken from Zabul to Ghazni City. It was there that a crowd gathered and decided to take the bodies to Kabul, show them to the government, and demand action.
They loaded the dead onto trucks, and on Tuesday morning they began their trip. Government forces stopped them at least twice, but by nightfall Tuesday evening they had reached the outskirts of Kabul. Protesters stood watch over the bodies all night.
The demonstration, despite the huge numbers and high emotion, was initially peaceful.
The crowd is massive. But peaceful, well organized. Human chain keeping sidewalk clear for people. pic.twitter.com/CwSFHrkYA4
— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) November 11, 2015
The day began with Afghanistan’s various ethnic groups at odds, at least judging by social media traffic. On Twitter, hashtags such as #StopKillingHazaras and #StopHazaraGenocide drew followers, while members of other ethnic groups protested all the attention being given to a small minority.
— مدثر اسلامي (@mmodaser) November 11, 2015
But the sniping stopped as the day wore on; by afternoon it was #AfghanUnity that won the day.
— Jalalatmáab (@MilliGhorzang) November 11, 2015
The common enemy by day’s end seemed to be the Afghan government.