Feature/Child Rights

Guns or Books

So far the children of warn-torn Afghanistan have had a very bad deal. Is there a ray of hope for the country’s young population?

By Samar Quddus | June 2020

As 2019 marked 18 years of warfare in Afghanistan, the sense of socio-economic and political loss ran deep among Afghan people inflicted by the US for the last two decades. The war and conflict situation has incurred a huge cost on the state and its people that has hampered state development, thus impeding the economic opportunities and rule of law in the country. The 20 years long war has brought several social and psychological sufferings and implications for the coming generations.

From high human casualties to a severe economic downturn, destruction of the physical infrastructure and the dwindling social fabric, one becomes perplexed about what is actually at stake for Afghanistan in the current war. Among many, the plight of Afghan children during all these war years and their uncertain future outweigh all other hazards of war.

Targeting schools, hospitals and places of worship has instilled fear and anger in the society, particularly among children. As a result of living in a constant state of conflict, violent extremism, intolerance, bigotry and fanaticism have continued to flourish in the country.

Today, almost 50 percent of the total Afghan population is below the age of 20; they were born and raised during the war. It can thus be assumed that the devastating impact of war has been disproportionately high on children in Afghanistan. They are the ones who suffered the most, making Afghanistan the worst place to be born in the world. Every single child of this conflict-wracked nation knows only war.

Robbed of childhood, young Afghan children throughout their adolescent years have learnt the use of armaments and can be seen carrying weapons. At a time when a child is supposed to be at school, he has been becoming a soldier and has joined armed militia, either forcibly or voluntarily, in an effort to cope with the war.

Several cases have been reported over the years about the militant-criminal nexus involved in kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, drug trade and many other lucrative forms of organized crime that has involved children.

The ever-increasing violations against Afghan children in the past few years is alarming for the Afghan government and international forces. A United Nations research publication reports that since 2016, nearly 11,000 civilians have died each year in Afghanistan, resulting from aerial strikes, search operations and ground engagements. Out of them, one-third were children. Last year alone witnessed an increase in child deaths or injuries by up to 80 percent compared to previous years.

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The writer is a freelance contributor and follows national issues with keen interest. She can be reached at samqk11@gmail.com

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