‘What use is it all?’: surge in Kabul violence leaves Afghans celebrating Eid in hospital

The holy month was not a happy time for many in the war-torn country

Shir Ali, 49, lies in hospital with his wife Qudsia, 48, by his side. The shock and pain of Monday's attack is raw. Stefanie Glinski for The National 
Shir Ali, 49, lies in hospital with his wife Qudsia, 48, by his side. The shock and pain of Monday's attack is raw. Stefanie Glinski for The National 

Shir Ali, 49, lost his leg two days ago, on the eve of Eid Al Fitr.

He now lies covered in white sheets, with his wife Qudsia, 48, by his side. Both are in tears as she takes turns kissing his face and wiping her tears with the turquoise scarf that covers her greying hair.

Big letters decorated with perfumed red rose petals are glued to the wall of the hospital’s admissions ward. They read: Eid Mubarak – Happy Eid.

For many in Afghanistan, it has not been a happy holiday.

The week leading up to the end of Ramadan has been bloody, with a high surge in violence claimed by the Taliban and ISIS across the capital Kabul.

The deadly list is long: a blast near a military training academy; the car bombing of a US convoy; a magnetic bomb attached to a student bus; two roadside bombs; and the attack on Ali’s bus, a vehicle carrying government employees.

Five of his colleagues were killed and 10 wounded.

Ali had made plans for Monday afternoon. He sat excitedly on the bus, chatting on his phone to a relative, with 3,000 borrowed afghani (Dh139) in his pocket to buy meat and food for the next day’s celebrations.

A loud bang, his bus engulfed in thick flames and the pain of his legs burning away are the next things he remembers.

Instead of celebrating with his wife, nine children and extended family, Ali is spending Eid at the Emergency Hospital in central Kabul, his right leg fractured and burnt, the left one amputated below the knee.

It is quiet in the room full of patients. Most of them are sleeping, only the occasional sound of passing cars can be heard through the open window, and the dull throbbing of their machine-measured heartbeats.

The hospital, run by an Italian charity called Emergency, has had numbers peak this week. Ninety-five war-wounded people were admitted, including 28 patients from Kabul attacks leading up to Eid.

“This has been this year’s busiest week so far,” Italian nurse Elisa Venturella says.

“It’s starting to pick up again and numbers of admissions have steadily increased since the beginning of Ramadan.”

Many relatives of those injured set up camp outside the hospital, waiting for updates from doctors and nurses.

“When there’s an explosion, families immediately know in which hospitals to search for their relatives,” Ms Venturella says.

Last year, the Taliban declared a three-day ceasefire during the holiday.

Dr Mujib Rahman, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, says even the days leading up to it were calmer in 2018.

“So far, the first two days of Eid have at least been quiet,” Dr Rahman says, while taking a break between operations.

Ali, whose legs are wrapped in thick bandages, says that he has always been afraid of taking the bus to and from work.

“But what can I do?” he asks.

With his monthly income of 8,000 afghani he has been supporting his family for years, even paying for his three eldest – a girl and two boys aged between 21 and 18 – to attend university in the capital.

The responsibility to provide for his family rests heavy on him.

“Now that I’m like this, who can support them?” Ali asks, pointing to his newly dressed stump. “What use is it all?”

His wife, who does not leave his side, says that the family has been too shocked and saddened to eat in the past two days.

“It should have been a happy celebration,” Qudsia says in tears. “My children are at home praying. We’re so thankful he’s alive, but we also worry.”

Qudsia donated blood for her husband earlier that day, and is able to enter the busy hospital out of visiting hours.

Next to Ali, his colleague Abdul Wahad, 41, sits in a wheelchair alone, his right leg lost in the same explosion, his face slightly scraped and burnt.

He is constantly on his phone with his family, eagerly awaiting Thursday’s visiting hours to see them.

“I had so many plans for Eid until the explosion,” Abdul Wahad says. “I was dragged out of the bus by my brother, who was with me but wasn’t injured. He took me to hospital by taxi.”

But it’s a question about his children that fills Abdul Wahad’s eyes with tears. He has seven, between the ages of three and 12.

“What can I say?” he asks quietly, before pausing for a moment and closing his eyes.

“I worry for them. I worry so much.”

Updated: June 6, 2019 03:26 AM

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