Afghans, especially women and children, are paying the cost of ongoing wars, and are once again exposed to the unpredictable outcomes of the EU and Afghan government’s deal on Afghan deportation.
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By Maryam Safi
It has been more than three decades of continues war, conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan. Afghans have been wandering and migrating from one city to another, one and from one country to another country, searching for a safe place and hoping for a better future. The EU and Afghan government’s deal on Afghan deportation adds to such concerns by returning them back to an unknown future. On one hand, European countries are sending Afghan immigrants back to an insecure country; on the other, neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran that have been hosting a large number of Afghan immigrants are forcefully returning them. Yet insecurity and conflict persist, and people are escaping war and attack from one city to another, and from one province to another province. Afghans, especially women and children, are paying the cost of ongoing wars, and are once again exposed to the unpredictable outcomes of the EU and Afghan government’s deal on Afghan deportation.
Current security situation in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is not safe. Security incidents such as suicide attacks, bombs and target killings are happening in almost every part of the country. The Afghan government and Taliban are playing the game of taking and losing control of provinces, some of which have never been completely under the control of the Afghan government. Some of the most recent security incidents that can be cited are; ‘attack on Helmand MP Mir Wali’s house in Khoshal Khan, PD5, in Kabul; kidnap of an International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) staff member, a Spanish national on the Kunduz-Balkh Highway on 20th October; killing of at least five female workers at Kandahar airport by unknown gun men on 17th December; two attacks by Daesh during the Shia ceremony of Ashura on October 11th in Kabul and on October 12th in the northern province of Balkh. Honor killings; execution of women by the Taliban, tribal leaders and male family members; violence against women and children; and kidnappings are happening almost daily in all parts of the country.
The EU and Afghan government’s agreement on Afghan deportation
On 2nd October 2016, the EU signed an agreement with the Afghan government allowing its member states to deport an unlimited number of Afghan asylum seekers, and obliging the Afghan government to receive them. It was after Afghanistan’s president met world powers at a major conference in Brussels on 4th and 5th October 2016, in a bid to secure financial aid from the international community up to 2020 to rebuild the war-ravaged nation.
According to the European Commission, the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (BCA) aims “to endorse a realistic program of reforms to bring about the Afghan government’s vision for the country and to ensure continued international political and financial support for political and economic stability, state-building and development in the country over the coming four years”. The legitimacy and structure of the Afghan government remains a matter of concern. The Afghan government is comprised of war lords and those who have been involved and responsible for mass killings and serious human rights violations. Instead of pursuing justice, such individuals have been awarded some of the highest positions in the Kosovo government. In the past they had the illegal power and influence, but now the government has given them legitimacy to pursue their illegal objectives through a legal power and authority.
Both the international community and the Afghan government have failed to ensure security in Afghanistan. It has been more than one decades from the fall of Taliban, yet the country is still busy with emergency projects rather than development activities. No infrastructure has been constructed, nor has sustainable development been pursued.
Concerns over women’s rights in Afghanistan
Ahead of the conference in Brussels on 4th and 5th October 2016, two events took place in the Charlemagne building of the European Commission. The High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, delivered a welcome address at the high-level event entitled “Empowered women, prosperous Afghanistan”, which will provide a platform for the Afghan government to outline policy progress and plans on the protection and empowerment of women.
The empowerment of women can only happen if women’s rights are granted. Afghanistan has been listed among the most dangerous countries for women and the Afghan government has failed to protect women’s rights and to prevent violence against women. Women in Afghanistan face both security and cultural barriers which in many ways disempower them. In the past two years, there has been a significant increase in attacks on women’s rights defenders and targeted killings of working women.
The first wave of Afghans deported from EU states under contentious migration deal and the concerns
The first plane carrying 34 Afghans from Germany touched down in Kabul before dawn on 15th December. On another, one day before, 13 Afghans were forcibly returned from Sweden. That flight also carried nine Afghan citizens from Norway. The deportations happened exactly in a time when the country’s security situation is not stable. It was on 14th December that ‘a shooting incident happened in Kabul airport and a foreigner was left dead and at least two others were wounded’.
According to the Guardian, ‘the German government plans to deport roughly 12,500 Afghans. The next chartered flight to Kabul is believed to be scheduled for early January. Norway has stepped up forced returns, with unaccompanied minors allegedly among those affected’, which is a matter of concern.
In the meantime, Afghanistan is struggling with an increase in the number of internal displacements and immigrants that have been forcefully returned from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan and Iran. A report by Amnesty International highlights that ‘the number of Afghans who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country – where they live on the brink of survival – has dramatically doubled over the past three years’. In addition, national and international human rights organizations continually express their concerns regarding the escalation of fighting between the Taliban and government forces, with suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and targeted attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents causing 70% of all civilian casualties. The number of civilians killed during government military operations increased, whilst the number of internally displaced persons doubled in 2016. While the government affirmed its commitment to human rights, it failed to address violations of women’s rights and attacks on journalists and activists.
Maryam Safi, from Afghanistan, worked for Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation, as Program Manager for Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of TransConflict.