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Kabul Closes Universities After Sectarian Clashes

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Afghan Shi'ite Muslims beat themselves with chains and blades to mark Ashura at a shrine in Kabul.

Afghan Shi'ite Muslims beat themselves with chains and blades to mark Ashura at a shrine in Kabul.

Afghanistan has closed down three major public universities in the capital, Kabul, for more than a week after sectarian clashes left one student dead and nearly 30 others wounded.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on November 25 that Afghanistan's Higher Education Ministry closed down the universities for 10 days as a "precautionary measure."
The clashes erupted on November 24 after a ritual marking the Shi'ite Muslim festival of Ashura was interrupted by hard-line Sunni students. Students attacked each other with sticks and rocks.
Ali Akbar, an Afghan Shi'ite Muslim and a student at Kabul University, claimed two of his fellow Shi'ite students died when they were pushed out of the window of their dormitory.

"The clashes started between Shi'a and Sunnis. Some of our Shi'ite brothers were in the dormitory when [the Sunnis] started a sectarian fight with them and pushed two of our Shi'ite brothers from the fourth floor and they were both martyred," Akbar said.

His claims have not been confirmed.
Calls For Restraint

The violence primarily hit a university hostel which houses students from the provinces.
Political leaders, including representatives from Shi'ite communities, have called for restraint following the clashes.

WATCH: Afghan Shi'a Mark The Day Of Ashura
Afghanistan's Shi'ite minorities have gained significant freedom since the
hard-line Taliban were removed from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
But the Ashura ceremony, in which men beat their chests and flagellate themselves as a sign of mourning, has long been a magnet for sectarian attacks.

A bomb attack on a crowd celebrating Ashura at a Shi'ite shrine in Kabul killed at least 55 and wounded 150 others last year.
Ashura is a religious ceremony marking the murder of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, by the armies of the Caliph Yazid in 680.
With reporting by AFP
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