Source: The Guardian
By Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
Two months ago, Mohammed Murtaza Turkmeni gathered up his savings and bought his first Kalashnikov. He was born, educated and started a family against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s civil war, but until now the 27-year-old telecoms engineer had never fought or wanted to fight.
This year, he didn’t feel he had a choice. He is one of hundreds of men from Kabul’s Shia population who have taken up arms to protect themselves and their community during Ashura, a ceremony that has been a frequent target for sectarian attacks from Pakistan to Iraq.
“It feels very sad,” said Turkmeni, part of a volunteer group who have been training in the basement of the mosque for weeks. “We are living in a country where every second there is a possibility of attack.”
The gunmen appeared on the streets of Kabul when the 10 days of Ashura commemorations began in mid-September, stark testament to crumbling security, and the devastating rise of sectarianism in a country once spared its ravages.