People react seconds after a suicide blast targeting a Shiite Muslim gathering in Kabul on December 6, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters).
The first time I visited Afghanistan was in 2002. Ashura, the holiest Shiite holiday, was in full swing. As we drove up into the predominantly Shiite central highlands of Bamiyan–Hazara country–my Afghan traveling companions were amazed at the open expressions of Ashura. Processions clogged the single dirt road passing through small villages and long black flags on poles flapped in the wind. During the Taliban years, expressions of Shiism were suppressed by the the Taliban, the hardline Sunni fundamentalists who ruled the country and decried Shiism as apostasy.
The past decade has seen a relatively peaceful coexistence between religious sects in Afghanistan, but that was shattered today by a series of brutal, coordinated bombings in three cities that killed at least 63 people and raised fears of renewed sectarian conflict. A Sunni religious group from Pakistan, Lakshar-e-Jangvi, claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted Shiite Muslims participating in ceremonies to observe Ashura. Read more »