Over two million Afghans have been killed or wounded in armed conflicts and violence over the past three decades but the desire for peace and stability has always been strong, nine NGOs say in a report published today.
“A whole generation has grown up never having experienced peace and many Afghans are struggling to cope with the psychological, economic, social and physical ramifications of the conflict, past and present,” says the report entitled The Cost of War, Afghan Experiences of Conflict, 1978-2009.
“Women in our district suffered the most, especially during the mujahadeen period since bothsides raped many women from the other side’s ethnic group.” – Male, Kunduz
“The majority of those who have suffered are women. Some are widows and sometimes they wereraped, sexually assaulted or physically attacked during the war.” – Female, Daikundi
The report documents personal experiences of past wars and common perceptions about the ongoing conflict in the country. It is based on over 700 interviews with people in 14 of the 34 provinces.
“The primary goal of the research was to look at the experiences of ordinary Afghans over the past 30 years, understand their perceptions of the current conflict and what they think should be done to alleviate the violence,” Ashley Jackson, head of policy and advocacy with Oxfam International in Afghanistan and author of the report, told IRIN.
“Three decades of war created a lot of problems for us. We migrated to Pakistan, our houses were destroyed, our land and property were grabbed by warlords, the economy was badly affected, our sons and daughters were deprived of education, our women were insulted… Schools, hospitals, roads and factories were destroyed and fear of war has caused many mental problems,” said one respondent from Kunar Province.
One in five individuals reported being tortured; just one percent of individuals reported receiving any compensation or apology for the harm done to them, and 70 percent of individuals saw unemployment and poverty as a major cause of the conflict, the report said.
“The report basically tells [of] the very high cost of war and the precious value of peace,” Aziz Rafiee, director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) and one of the nine NGOs, told IRIN.
What kind of war?
Over the past few years armed violence has intensified with civilian casualties mounting, according to UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) statistics.
The growing resurgence of the Taliban has dashed hopes for an end to the fighting and there is little hope for immediate peace, experts said.
“This is a civil war,” said Mohammad Ali Wosoqi from the NGO Cooperation Centre for Afghanistan (CCA). “The government has been fighting internal militant groups.”
Rafiee of the ACSF, however, said the current conflict was “a regional war” between extremist forces and governments.
"This is a war against transnational terrorism," he said.
Whatever the nature of the ongoing conflict, it has adversely affected most Afghans, said Jackson.
The impunity of alleged war criminals and a weak judiciary are key reasons for the continued fighting, say experts.
Backed by the UN and other international actors in 2005, the Afghan government agreed to implement a transitional justice action plan within three years. The plan was designed to address past crimes through proper documentation, national reconciliation and judicial rulings where necessary.
However, four years on, nothing much has happened, with alleged criminals still powerful, according to NGOs and human rights groups.
"There is widespread impunity for war-related abuses and efforts to establish accountability have been largely abandoned, with surprisingly little focus on transitional justice and reconciliation. And yet, unless the Afghan people are given an opportunity to come to terms with their past, there is little prospect for sustainable peace," says the report.
Research for the report was jointly designed and/or carried out by the following organizations: ACSF, CCA, Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA), Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights (ADWR), Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW), Oxfam GB, Organization for Human Welfare (OHW), Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), and The Liaison Office (TLO).