Zainab Nasir, Afghanistan, APMA 2019
I forgot when was the last time I heard of peace in Afghanistan. I only remember when the war was less deadly, and when it was deadlier.
According to a 2018 UN report, Afghanistan’s conflict was the deadliest in the world, with the number of civilians killed reaching a world record high.
The Afghan people’s problems began in 1979 with the invasion of the then USSR, which lasted for nine years. Thousands of civilians were either maimed or killed and millions fled to neighboring countries, many to Pakistan and Iran. Soviet troops left Afghanistan in 1988 to the insurgent groups.
It was a war for power between the USSR and the United States, one that was fought in Afghanistan. The country has yet to experience peace since then. Instead, war has become the norm under different names, actors, forces, and illusions until it gained the name of the “war on terror.”
The forty years of war has brought the country to a disastrous situation in terms of human rights. In Afghanistan, identifying human rights violations and violators is no longer difficult. The past eighteen years were exceedingly deadly for Afghans and for humanity. Over 391,000 civilian deaths and more than 30,000 civilians wounded have been reported; the number of unreported deaths most likely exceed this number. Over 111,000 Afghan civilians, soldiers, and militants have been killed in the war. The ratio for the disabilities, war-related diseases, mental and physical harms have yet to be counted.
As an immediate by-product of war, people were denied their basic rights to life. The situation has only gotten worse. There have been eight bomb attacks targeting civilians only from August to December 2019, killing over four hundred civilians and wounding countless others. The deliberate attacks on civilians are serious violations of human rights that amount to war crimes.
Today, Afghanistan has become more vulnerable as the international community has rejected many Afghans seeking asylum in foreign countries. In 2016, the European Union and the Afghan government entered an agreement in the Brussels Conference on migrants’ issues. The agreement is based on the fiction that Afghanistan has become a war-free and safe place to return, and EU countries started forcibly returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan. The agreement itself is a violation of human rights since no country can forcibly return asylum seekers without a clear presence of accountability and reporting from the Afghan government as well as the EU.
Meanwhile, there is no protection of life, property, and dignity of Afghan people. Access to information, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly has been ceased. International media and journalists have been killed and banned from reporting the true situation in Afghanistan.
Afghan children are the most vulnerable members of society. Continuing war has brought them Afghan children to the lowest level of the human standard of living. They have been deprived of good food, basic health facilities, and education. Many Afghan children are unable to complete primary school, particularly in rural areas and for girls. An estimated 3.7 million children are out of school in the poorest and remote areas of Afghanistan. Only 6% of Afghan girls go to school.
Protecting the basic rights of the citizens is the primary responsibility of the state, yet the Afghan politicians are puppets in the hands of foreign states. To be realistic, it is not capable of tackling the situation. In fact, it has failed to protect the rights of its citizens.
Human rights are very controversial in Afghanistan. The world’s biggest propagators of human rights, the former USSR and the US are the violators who have used Afghan land as a battlefield against each other. Military invasion as a strategy has failed in combating terrorism. Millions have been killed, injured, disabled. Children have been orphaned, young women have been raped, widowed, people were forced to migrate in order to protect their lives. The infrastructure and economy doomed. The future of the nation is uncertain.
The truth is that Afghanistan has become more dangerous than ever before, and establishing peace has been a hard nut to crack. Yet the stars seem to be aligned for the peace process by convincing the Taliban to come up through a Democratic way by contesting elections.
If the amount of money invested in the “war on terror” was, instead, channeled to education, health, hunger, women empowerment, child rights, and so on, today I would have a different story to tell.
Photo from the Washington Post.
*The contents of this opinion piece are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the either Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific, the universities under it, or the APMA program.