Kabul students take to streets after shooting

November 15, 2002

Protests at Kabul University led to violent clashes with the police this week, leaving at least one student dead and sparking more demonstrations and the occupation of the university.

The first major street demonstrations in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban began on Monday as a demand for better hostel conditions. Police opened fire when students started throwing rocks. Officials said that one student died and five were injured - but others believe the number of dead and injured to be higher.

Din Mohammad Jurat, public order chief for the Interior Ministry, said police fired into the air. But Abdul Rab Kuhestani, director of Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, said student casualties "had injuries in the lower parts" of their bodies.

One 25-year-old medical student, identifying himself as Ahmad, was dragged away by the police while he was being interviewed by US-financed Prague-based Radio Liberty. He said: "There has been no electricity and no water (in the hostel) for four nights, and yesterday we could not get water from the pumps outside."

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into the incident.

The clashes coincided with reports of rare student protests in Iran. The official news agency IRNA admitted that the students in Tehran and Hamadan were protesting against the sentencing of university professor Hashem Aghajari, who was convicted on three separate charges, one of which carried a death sentence.

In June, Mr Aghajari made a speech in which he said that only reformist and modernist clerics could truly be called "religious scholars". This was seen as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, imams or the sanctities of Islam.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Azerbaijan the government is worried about 5,000 or so Azerbaijani students who have left to study at religious colleges abroad. It fears that they are being trained for a future attempt to turn Azerbaijan into a religious state.

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