On 23 July 2016 a twin bombing occurred in the vicinity of Deh Mazang square in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, when the #Enlightenment_Movement protesters, mostly from the Hazara ethnic, were marching against a decision to bypass their region in the development of the TUTAP mega power project. At least 97 people were killed and 260 injured.
The terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed responsibility, however, the same group later on refused it.
The attack was the deadliest in Kabul since 2001. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a live television address, declared the following day (24 July) a day of national mourning and promised action against the culprits.In tribute to the victims, Ghani renamed the Dehmazang Square, where the attack took place, to the Enlightenment Martyrs’ Square.
The Hazaras are the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, mostly Shia, forming between 19-25% of the Afghan population, which is mostly Sunni.Hazaras have been subject to discrimination and genocides since the establishment of the current Afghan state by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1919. The Hazara community has long been persecuted by the Taliban, who came to power in 1996, overall resulting in thousands killed.
The TUTAP (Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) is a multimillion-dollar power project backed by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank to make electricity accessible to more people in Afghanistan. The project’s initial assessment recommended the TUTAP route through the Bamyan Province,a Hazara populated province in the Central Highlands, but in 2016 it was re-routed via Salang Pass by government of Afghanistan.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Syria-based terror group who have committed various attacks against civilians on the Eurasian continent. ISIL’s Afghanistan branch is small, based in the country’s east near the Pakistani border. In March 2016, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani claimed that the group was ‘wiped out of Afghanistan’, after the group failed to expand and pose a serious threat to the government.
The Hazara of Afghanistan protested the decision to re-route the TUTAP project. The civil activists of Kabul organised a march to protest on 6 May 2016, naming the movement جنبش روشنایی (literally “Enlightenment Movement”). Subsequent negotiations between the protesters and government officials were inconclusive. Therefore, a second peaceful demonstration was organised on 23 July 2016.
Thousands of people attended the demonstration on 23 July 2016. It started west of Kabul at around 07:00 and ended at Deh Mazang Square, where the government had placed containers and trucks to stop demonstrators from marching towards the presidential palace. Protesters were planning to make camp here at the end of the protest.
Before the march, the government had warned organizers of the possibility of an attack.