The Afghan schoolgirls pulled off their scarves and veils "You wear these," they were quoted by eyewitnesses as saying in a taunting way, "and we will take the guns and go after the Russians."
The women stood in the forefront of the "children's revolt" against the Babrak omen stood in the forefront of the "children's revolt" against the Babrak Karmal regime and its Soviet masters that has rocked the Afghan capital of Kabul during the last 2 1/2 weeks, leaving behind what observers here beleive is a strong trail of bitterness against the government and the Soviets.
According to reports from Afghan eyewitnesses and diplomats in Kabul, the revolt is still going on, with many high school and university students boycotting classes. One student was reported to have been shot and killed in an antigovernment demonstration May 3.
In all, an estimated 70 school children -- most of them between 12 and 17 years of age and at least 36 of them girls -- were killed and hundreds more wounded in the demonstrations, which started April 21 when students refuses to attend ceremonies unveiling a new national flag.
In addition, according to delayed reports reaching here, the anti-government students killed at least 17 of their classmates who support the Babrak regime and lynched a Marxist woman principal of an all-girls high school. Two Soviet soldiers were also reported injured, one of whom had his eyes gouged out by knife-wielding students.
It was the bloodiest disturbance in Kabul since the anti-Soviet bazaar protests in February, when 300 persons were killed.
But with the government forces still firmly in control, the protests took on the futility of uprisings of Hungarian students in 1956 and Czechoslovak students in 1968, when the youth of those Eastern European nations put their bodies on the line against massive Soviet forces and lost.
"We are no better than the Czechs or Hungarians. Without modern weapons, there is little we can do," said one former Afghan government official now living in exile here.
He is well plugged in to a network of Afghan merchants and traders who carry information out of their country, where there are currently no Western news reporters.
Nonetheless, European diplomats in the Afghan capital are reporting to their governments that the demonstrations were a severe blow to the Babrak government, especially since they occurred during the celebration of the second anniversary of the revolution that put a Marxist regime in countrol of the country.
"They were timed to give maximum embarrassment to the government since Kabul was full of visiting delegations," reported one European diplomat from Afghanistan.
"The shooting of school children," hecontinued, "has caused great bitterness, even in a society as brutalized as this one."
Other diplomatic reports reaching here said residents of Kabul are "increasingly sullen, frantic and worried," especially about their children.
"More people may be drawn to act out against the regime."
This view underscores one of the major problems the Soviets face in trying to gain control of Afghanistan: the more force they use to put down demonstrations, the more they antagonize the people they are trying to win over.
It is still unclear, for example, whether Soviet troops or Afghan security forces shot at the school children during the demonstrations.
Afghan eyewitnesses reaching here from Kabul reported that most of the shooting was done by Soviets, though they said some armed Parcham Party loyalists, acting as revolutionary guards, fired on the demonstrations. But diplomatic reports reaching here blame all the shooting on Afghans, not Soviets.
According to an Afghan source here, the uprising reached a peak April 29 at Kabul University with the girls taking the lead, taunting the boys to join them against the Babrak government and the Soviets. It spread from there to nearby high schools, where groups marched to the home of Commerce Minister Mohammad Khan Gallaler, who was called a turncoat.
Three girls were killed there, probably by Afghan party workers guarding the house.
Carrying the bodies with them and passing by other schools to collect more students, the "children's revolt" marched to the former royal palace, now renamed the People's Palace, in the center of Kabul. By the time it reached there, the number of marchers had grown to between 3,000 and 5,000 eyewitnesses reported.
The students began taunting the Soviet soldiers guarding the palace and, according to two eyewitness reports, the Soviets opened fire, killing 16 or 17 students.
"They were completely unarmed," said a former Afghan government official who reached here this week. "They were under the false impression that women would not be fired upon. This is the first time in Afghan history that fire has been opened on women. It is against the Afghan etiquette, tradition and custom to shoot women."
"What this shows," said one analyst here, "is that the Soviets are not going to tolerate dissent. If they have to shoot teenagers to stop it, they will. If the Afghans are reluctant to shoot their countrymen, the Soviets certainly are not."
But the shooting has not stopped the unrest, which has continued to ripple through the city. There were reports of more antigovernment leaflets appearing under doors.
Some of the attacks have gotten personal. Students were reported to have gathered at the home of Education Minister Anahita Ratibzad, who is widely believed to Babrak's mistress, shouting that they didn't want the country's schools run by a prostitute.
Moreover, there are indications that rebel attacks against the Soviets in the countryside have intensified, and some analysts see Moscow as no better off now than it was more than five months ago when it moved troops into Afghanistan in force and installed Babrak as its man in charge.
According to reports reaching here, two reliable informants in Kabul saw Soviet helicopters returning to the capital city carrying litters with dead soldiers.
Kabul radio has reported blasting for water and the newspapers there said military exercises have been going on outside the city for the past three days -- leading to speculation there of increased rebel activity against the Soviets.