Afghan Conflict Takes Devastating Toll on Civilians

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Despite the decrease in casualties this year, conflict-related violence in Afghanistan continues to have a devastating consequences for civilians.

According to 2012 Midyear Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, during the first half of the 2012, violence led to 1,145 civilian deaths and 1,954 injuries in Afghanistan.

In addition, the 3,099 civilian casualties documented in this report were ordinary Afghans struggling to go about their daily lives in the midst of an armed conflict.

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An Afghan girl at Gudham Shahar Camp in Mazari-Sharif. UN Photo/Luke Powell

Today, the United Nations welcomes the reduction in civilian casualties. However, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom stresses that Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at alarmingly high levels

Mr. Haysom adds that out of the 3,099 casualties as reflected on the reports, 925 were women and children.

“I call on all parties to the conflict to increase their efforts to protect civilians from harm and to respect the sanctity of human life.” -Mr. Haysom

The report notes that anti-Government elements were responsible for 80 per cent of civilian casualties.

UNAMA also reports that Pro-Government forces were responsible for 10 per cent of the civilian casualties.

The report also notes that while overall casualties have decreased, attacks against schools have increased and the Taliban’s interference in the running of schools has impact children’s access to education, especially girls.

During the first six months of the year, UNAMA verified 34 attacks, including cases of burnings of school buildings, targeted killings and intimidation of teachers and school officials, armed attacks against and occupation of schools, and closures, particularly of girls’ schools.

In May this year, the anti-government groups have increased their attacks on schools in Afghanistan where at least 72 students and teachers being killed since school began on March 23.

Reports say 62 schools were burned down and another 640 schools were closed because of a lack of security.

The insurgents targeted education officials travelling in Paktika province killing five civilians and wounding seven others.

In Khogyani district of Nangahar province on 8 May, anti-government elements set fire to a girls’ secondary school in Wazir village, destroying two school buildings and equipment.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has voiced serious concern over reported attacks on schools and education officials by anti-government groups in recent weeks.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the raids were a violation of children’s right to education.

The Mission cited that on 2011, they have recorded unacceptable levels of violence by anti-government elements directed against schools, education institutions, their staff and students.

Reports say insurgents have also conducted a campaign of intimidation against community leaders and staff at the school to force its closure.

The mission as stressed that the attacks and acts of intimidation demonstrate a disregard for the protection of civilians, especially children, and of civilian institutions.

UNAMA renewed calls for the respect of international humanitarian law and for the right to education for all Afghans amid the increasing attacks against schools.

The mission also called on the Afghan Government and the international forces to ensure that effective security measures are in place to protect schools, students and teachers.

Reports such as blowing up of school buildings and torturing school going children by the Taliban are common in Afghanistan and Af-Pak border region.

Talibans are reportedly particularly opposed to the education of girls. According to an estimate, the Taliban have attacked and destroyed more than 500 educational institutions in the last five years.

On 13th of September 2011, they attacked a school van carrying students. Five innocent kids were killed by these cruel Taliban in that terror attack.

On November 2011, they blew up a school, just 75-kms from Pakistani capital Islamabad. Notably, the Taliban takes responsibility for all these strikes and also warns of such attacks on education in future. Certainly, their main objective is to keep the Muslims, especially girls, bereft of modern education.

A United Nations report issued on May 2011 stressed that attacks against schools by armed elements has compromised the civilian nature of schools and put students at risk.

The UN report also revealed that an increasing number of parties to armed conflicts around the world are deliberately attacking schools or forcing them to close in a disturbing and growing trend.

The annual report of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict finds that out of 22 conflicts that were monitored, attacks against schools and hospitals were reported in at least 15.

The physical damage or destruction of schools is the most re-occurring violation, but there are also reports of schools being closed because of military occupation or direct threats.

In some situations, girls and girls’ schools have been specifically targeted. The use of schools by armed elements has, in certain circumstances, compromised the civilian nature of schools and put students at risk.

In Afghanistan, the UN and the Government recently reached an agreement to release children from the Afghan national security forces and to put in place age verification measures to prevent under-age recruitment.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.