Thousands of boys and girls have been killed or injured over the past two years in Afghanistan, said the latest UN report on Children and Armed Conflict, which was issued a day after the Taliban took control over the country.
In the study, the UN found that 5,770 Afghan youngsters were killed or maimed between January 2019 and December 2020, the reporting period. Meanwhile, child casualties hit their highest levels ever during the first half of this year, with hundreds killed in recent weeks amid the deteriorating political and security situation, the report said.
This is the fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan.
The study said that child casualties resulting from complex and suicide attacks (586) increased by 22 per cent when compared with previous two years. The study showed that one in three casualties was a child.
UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba pointed out that Afghanistan continued to be one of the most dangerous places for a child.
“I am appalled by the continuing and rising high levels of violence endured by children in Afghanistan, including those caught up in combat,” she said.
“As the already dramatic situation continues to evolve rapidly and concerning reports of human rights violations keep arising, I call for all abuses to stop, and I urge the Taliban and all other parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as by national commitments and protect the lives and rights of all people, including those of women and girls,” she appealed.
RECRUITMENT AND USE
The UN said that recruitment of children was at a pace during the period. They came across recruitment and use of 260 boys, mainly in the northern region (161), north-eastern region (56) and central highlands region (13). There was a sharp increase from 2019 (64) to 2020 (196). 25. The Taliban were responsible for the recruitment and use of 230 children (88 per cent), all used in combat roles, for instance, to plant improvised explosive devices, to carry out suicide attacks and to participate in hostilities against government forces.
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces recruited 22 boys. Of these, Afghan National Police recruited eight, Afghan National Army Territorial Force four, Afghan Local Police one, and the Afghan Local Police and pro-government militias jointly nine. Children aged from 13 to 17 years were used in combat and support roles, as well as for sexual purposes, such as bacha bazi, a practice whereby boys are exploited by wealthy or powerful men for entertainment, in particular for dancing and sexual activities.
They also came across recruitment of 413 children (412 boys and 1 girl), mainly by armed groups. Boys were more likely to be recruited and used than girls, owing partly to cultural norms and religious beliefs. Poverty was also a significant push and pull factor, and boys were more likely to bear the responsibility for meeting the household’s economic needs. Girls were often subjected to early marriages and engaged in domestic labour or other household work and activities
DETENTION OF CHILDREN
The Ministry of Justice reported of 311 children (310 boys and one girl) detained in juvenile rehabilitation centre in Kabul on charges related to national security, including association with armed groups (146 boys in 2019; 164 boys and 1 girl in 2020), for periods ranging from 6 months to 3.5 years.
These children included those who had surrendered or had been captured in combat. Despite the endorsement of the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles) by the Government of Afghanistan, children continued to be detained for alleged or actual association with armed groups.
The study found that 318 children, who were predominantly of non-Afghan nationality, were in prisons and other detention facilities with their mothers who were detained for alleged or actual association with the Taliban or ISIL-KP.
KILLING AND MAIMING
Child casualties constituted almost one third of all civilian casualties during the reporting period. Armed groups were responsible for 46 per cent of child casualties, namely the killing (602) and maiming (2,031) of 2,633 children (1,946 boys, 684 girls and 3 of sex unknown), with the vast majority attributed to the Taliban (2,178), followed by ISIL-KP (285), unidentified armed groups (166) and jointly to the Taliban and ISIL-KP (4), the study noted.
It also noted that government and pro-government forces were responsible for 35 per cent of child casualties, namely the killing (745) and maiming (1,250) of 1,995 children (1,191 boys, 791 girls and 13 of sex unknown). Of these, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces were responsible for 1,352 child casualties, attributed to the Afghan National Army (1,200), the Afghan National Police (52), the National Directorate for Security (52), the Afghan Border Force (19), the Afghan Local Police (16) and the Afghan National Civil Order Force (13). Other child casualties were attributed to international forces (294) and pro-government militias (68), while child casualties were also attributed jointly to armed groups and government and pro-government forces (808), jointly to government and pro-government forces (226) and to crossborder shelling from Pakistan (86). The remaining 248 child casualties could not be attributed to a specific party to the conflict
Children continued to be affected by airstrikes, which caused the killing (357) and maiming (283) of 640 children and were attributed to the Afghan National Army (329), international forces (279) and unidentified pro-government forces. Suicide and complex attacks by armed groups accounted for 10 per cent of child casualties, with 586 children killed (79) and maimed (507), marking a 22 per cent increase compared with the previous two years (482)
Most abductions were attributed to the Taliban (66), followed by pro-government militias (2) and the Afghan National Police (1). For instance, in April 2020, in Balkh Province, a group of Taliban went to the Qalaqan area where civilians were digging a water reservoir on their farmland, intending to extort them, under the pretext of zakat and ushr. The Taliban abducted members of the community, including two boys aged 10 and 15, took them to a village and shot and killed them on the same day. 59. Seven children were killed during their abduction in 2019 (1) and 2020 (6). The country task force was also able to verify that 12 children had been released from abduction in 2019 (1) and 2020 (11).