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Students at the 2013 American University of Afghanistan graduation. (U.S Embassy Kabul Afghanistan on Flickr)

‘Hard to breathe’

Student recalls horror of Taliban attack on American University in Kabul

September 26, 2016

Last month, 12 people were killed during a Taliban-led attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.  In a piece for Women’s eNews, Alia, a 16-year-old student at the university, recalls the sheer terror she experienced during hours of gunfire and bloodshed.

Alia writes that the attack began around 7 p.m., while she was attending evening prayers at the university’s mosque. Suddenly, three explosions erupted nearby. “The air turned dark, the ceiling fell upon us,” Alia remembers. “It was hard to breathe. Seconds later, gunshots began.”

A group of female students, Alia among them, fled the mosque and tried to take shelter in the hall of an adjacent building. But Taliban fighters were inside, and fired on the girls. Alia threw herself to the ground and for six-odd hours, she lay as still as possible, pretending to be dead. The attackers would canvas the room every 30 minutes. “I could hear [them] singing songs,” Alia writes. “I was unable to stop myself from shaking in fear.”

At 1:30 a.m., Alia decided to surrender. She knew it was very possible that the Taliban would kill her on the spot; a male student, who had been pretending to be dead, was shot when he turned himself over to the attackers. “I told myself, ‘If I am supposed to die, why die alone? Why not surrender myself so that I die with my fellow students?’ Alia remembers.

She heard four men at the end of the hall, and called out to them. In a fortunate twist of fate, the men were not Taliban; they were police. Alia was evacuated to safety.

A month after the attack, painful memories of the incident linger. “I still feel some kind of fear inside,” Alia writes. “But I know we students must find our bravery.”

Read the full story at Women’s eNews.


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