Kabul: Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar has called for an end to attacks, documentation of crimes and monitoring of Taliban human rights violations in Afghanistan.
Atmar raised the issue in an online meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday. The foreign minister spoke at the online meeting about the unprecedented increase in Taliban attacks that have killed civilians and displaced them.
Atmar said the Taliban’s attacks were carried out in collusion with foreign fighters and terrorist groups and are a clear and widespread violation of international human rights law. He added that the people and government of Afghanistan want the United Nations to play a more effective role in putting pressure on the Taliban and their supporters in the region.
On the other hand, Bachelet expressed deep UN concern over the inhumane actions of the Taliban and foreign fighters who have caused the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, and the UN Human Rights Council’s commitment to working to end the violence, prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity and It has ensured the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
As violence intensifies across large areas of Afghanistan, civilians are at risk of being caught up in fighting between warring parties. Civilian casualties reached record levels in the first half of 2021. Unless steps are taken to de-escalate the violence, Afghanistan will see its highest ever number of such casualties in a single year. Some 360,000 people in Afghanistan have been uprooted from their homes by conflict since January, and an additional 30,000 are reportedly fleeing the country each day. Afghanistan has already produced the second-largest displaced population in the world, after Syria, and this number is expected to rise exponentially.
“The latest violence should be cause for great alarm,” says Vicki Aken, Afghanistan director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “Hundreds of thousands of people have already been internally displaced due to conflict as well as drought.”
“We are on pace for record civilian deaths and injuries, with the majority being women and children. Schools are closed, food shortages abound, and people are turning to desperate measures such as child labor and early marriage for girls.” Eighteen million people in Afghanistan are in dire need of humanitarian assistance—a situation that is only worsening as the conflict intensifies. The crisis ranks second on the IRC’s 2021 Emergency Watchlist, a global list of humanitarian crises that are expected to deteriorate the most over the coming year.
“Humanitarian organizations like the IRC are committed to remaining in Afghanistan and continuing to deliver support to its population,” says Aken. “It is vital that world leaders do the same.”
World leaders must ensure aid organizations have access to deliver lifesaving support to people who need it. They must also advocate for an immediate ceasefire and support a peaceful settlement to the conflict. “Afghanistan needs sustained aid and diplomatic support from both Western and regional powers,” says Aken. “Without this, there is little chance that needs will be met and peace will be found.”
Filipe Ribeiro, the Afghanistan representative for Doctors Without Borders, said that the situation is getting from bad to worse and it is very bad in most of the cities where we do work. “In Lashkargah, for almost a week now, even more than a week, the fighting is going wild, if I can put it that way, all over the city. It’s daily bombings as well as the night that you cannot sleep. They are stuck in the hospital. Basically, we have 250 people working in the hospital for 120 patients, more or less. They cannot leave the hospital. They are rushing all over the place, trying to treat patients because in such a situation, a lot of patients are coming to us.” Riberio added that the fight is almost everywhere, and the intensity of the fight is quite different.
According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), the situation for people who have been displaced due to an upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan following the resurgence of the Taliban is expected to continue to deteriorate, unless more is done to assist them. The IOM estimates that more than 300,000 Afghans have been internally displaced by the recent intensification of the conflict and in June some 40,000 people a week fled to neighbouring Iran.
“The situation in Afghanistan is worsening daily from every perspective”, according to Stuart Simpson, IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission. “Now is not the time to turn a blind eye to Afghanistan’s critical situation. International attention and advocacy is urgently needed to convey the suffering of Afghan civilians to the world. A negotiated ceasefire remains the best solution for Afghanistan’s civilian population to stay safe and potentially create the conditions for improved service delivery and the access required to reach vulnerable persons with care and assistance”. The UN estimates that almost half the Afghan population, 18.5 million people, will require humanitarian support in 2021 to cope with the multifaceted crisis, caused by conflict, COVID-19 and widespread under-development and poverty.
On the other hand, Task Force Eagle at Fort Lee, Virginia, is supporting the mission of relocating up to 3,500 Afghan special immigrant applicants in support of the State Department and as directed by the Defense Department. Army Col. Karin L. Watson, Fort Lee’s garrison commander, said the installation received notification of its role in support of Operation Allies Refuge on July 15. The operation supports the relocation of interested and eligible Afghans and families who have supported the U.S. government and are close to finishing the process of applying for special immigrant visas, according to the State Department.
The task force is charged with providing temporary housing, medical screening, food, religious support and other necessities to Afghan special immigrant applicants. The first group of about 200 Afghans arrived at Fort Lee on July 30. They are finishing the remaining steps on their path to becoming permanent U.S. residents.
“Fort Lee remains eager and committed to doing all it can to support the U.S. government’s efforts to help those who have helped us for many years,” said Army Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee. “We were able to accelerate the planning and preparation for this mission thanks to the responsiveness of the entire military enterprise,” Simerly said. “We are thankful for their support and are proud to support this valuable mission.”
On the other hand, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) strongly condemned the assassination of Dawakhan Minapal, head of the Government Information and Media Center, in Kabul, following the Taliban’s targeted attacks on civilian government employees. The Commission urges the group to strongly refrain from attacking government civil servants, media and civil society activists. It is obvious that according to national and international law, the designers, perpetrators of such crimes will not be subject to the passage of time and will be held accountable for their actions in any situation.
Also, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) visited Afghanistan from 21 to 31 July not only to show solidarity with Afghan journalists and media at this difficult time but also and above all to propose and promote – to journalists’ associations, media representatives and government officials – a plan for the protection of journalists adapted to the current environment. The Urgent Actions Protocol for the Protection of Journalists in Afghanistan (UAP) proposed by RSF is above all a concrete mechanism that takes account of the reality on the ground.
During this visit to Afghanistan, RSF met above all with representatives of media outlets, the Federation of Afghan Journalists and various journalists’ associations. As well as meetings with Vice-President Sarwar Danesh, RSF envoy Reza Moini also met with information and culture minister Mohammad Qasim Vafai Zadeh, High Council for Social and Strategic Affairs representative Wahid Omar, and National Security Council member Heshmat Natiqet. Zia Bumia, a journalist who is a member of the Federation of Afghan Journalists, and RSF envoy Moini, who heads the Afghanistan and Iran desk at RSF, held a joint press conference about the UAP on 30 July. “This protocol will be on the agenda of the joint government/media committee’s next meeting,” Bumia said, thanking RSF for its “presence alongside [Afghanistan’s] journalists and media at these historic moments.”
Moini said, “The aim of this Urgent Actions Protocol is to structure, concentrate and accelerate assistance to journalists and media outlets in an even-handed and generalised manner. The international community and democratic countries must protect Afghan journalists in their own country while avoiding the ‘Syria-isation’ of Afghanistan, that is to say, a situation of inextricable and deadly chaos.”