TURMOIL IN AFGHANISTAN
Author: Anushka Srivastava, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Chanakya National Law University
The year 2020 saw some major negotiations among all the interested members to the war of Afghanistan. However, despite the peace talks and negotiations, the armed conflict between Taliban and Afghan government forces continued to escalate and finally, the armed group took control over the country. The situation however remains disastrous as many citizens have already fled the country, fearing the return of the Taliban’s brutal and repressive regime.
The present-day crisis in Afghanistan has entered its 20th year and continues to claim large numbers of lives. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has prompted an array of criticism from all over the world. Mainly, analysts argue that the Taliban now has the upper hand, and is unlikely to respect democracy, freedom of expression, empowerment of women, and the mass exodus of refugees fleeing Afghanistan may lead to another migration crisis.
The UN Refugee Agency has alerted of an emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, bringing increased civilian casualties and displacement. Since January 2021, approximately 270,000 people have been displaced inside the country, mainly because of violence. These displaced people have reported interruptions to social services, loss of incomes as a result of rising violence, and the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on major roads. As per the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2021 First Quarter Report, there have been 1,783 civilian casualties with an increase of 29 per cent, out of which 573 were killed and 1,210 were injured, 37 percent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and 23 percent increase in child casualties, in comparison with the first quarter of 2020. UNAMA documented the Afghan National Army is responsible for 17% and the Taliban for 43.5% of all civilian casualties.
As per the U.S. intelligence community, Afghanistan’s government perhaps had collapsed within six months after the withdrawal of the US. troops from the country but unfortunately it didn’t even take 10 days for the Taliban to regain control over the country.
In February 2020, the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban as a step forward in ending a decade long armed conflict in Afghanistan. The deal included an undertaking to release “up to 5,000” Taliban members held by the Afghan government, in exchange for 1,000 members held by Taliban of the Afghan security forces. Initially the government was hesitant to release some fighters, who were claimed to have committed grave crimes. However, because of pressure from the US government, they too were released and a few were transferred to Qatar. At last, over 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released.
The deal also stipulated that the US and NATO will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and subsequently all troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 14 months. As per the deal, US sanctions on Taliban were to be withdrawn by August 27,2020.The main liability of the armed group was that it will not allow any of its members to use Afghanistan’s land to threaten the security of the US and its allies. However, the US-Taliban peace agreement did not provide a solution on the question of a political settlement in Afghanistan to direct negotiations between the representatives of the Afghan government on one side, and the armed group on other.
Status of Women
Since 2001, major progress has been made in the education of Afghan women. As per a report of UNESCO titled “The right to education: What’s at stake in Afghanistan?”, between 2011-2018, the adult literacy rate has increased by 11.6% and the female’s literacy rate increased by 12.8%.Despite the progress made after the fall of Taliban in 2000, women’s involvement in government remained little. Even in the “Intra-Afghan talks” there was a limited representation of women on the government’s side and none on the Taliban’s side.
A report, titled, “In Search of Justice for Crimes of Violence Against Women and Girls”, mentions that the justice system in Afghanistan has failed the women of the country. The report examines the role of the judicial system and the remedies available, in matters of violence against women, between the period of September 2018 and February 2020. According to the findings of UNAMA, just 50% of reported crimes reached a primary court, with perpetrators convicted in around 40% of cases and one in every five women did not pursue her case through the channels of justice either by not complaining or by later withdrawing the complaint.
During the 1990s, the Taliban not only brutally imposed social restrictions on women, but also denied them a whole range of basic rights, which includes the right to education, healthcare, and free movement. After regaining control and forming a government in Afghanistan, the Taliban has said that women would be allowed to study, but not alongside men and it would not be mandatory for women to wear a full Burqa, and they can just opt for the hijab. However, it is too soon to comment on what the future holds for women in Afghanistan as they continue to face discrimination and torture and a complete withdrawal of American troops and the fall of Kabul would significantly jeopardize the progress made since 2000 for bettering the situation of women in the country.
Freedoms of press
Journalists in Afghanistan are often subjected to insecurity and targeted killings. According to a report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 33 journalists were murdered between the period of 2018 and 2021 Afghanistan. Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) reported that, in the year 2020, it had registered nearly 100 cases of aggression, including murders, death threats against female journalists.
After the return of the Taliban, the situation has become much more disastrous for female journalists. According to a media watchdog, since the return of the Taliban, the number of female journalists working in Kabul has come down to 100as they were directed to stay home, harassed, prevented from going on to work. The lack of safety and security threatens the future of a free and independent media in Afghanistan and there can never be lasting peace without the press freedom.
Right to Leave and seek asylum
Soon after the Taliban regained control over Kabul, disturbing pictures of Afghans waiting at the airports began to surface. Since then, it has become more dangerous for the citizens to flee the country. In international laws and Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 27 on Freedom of Movement, the right to leave any country is well recognized. It belongs to citizens as well as to foreigners. As per Article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, every individual has a right to leave any country, including their own”, subject to limited lawful restrictions. As per the Article 1A (2) of the Refugee Convention, a person cannot become a refugee if he/she has not yet left their country. The right to seek asylum from persecution is guaranteed under Article 14 of UDHR and Article 31 of the Refugee Convention forbids the penalisation of refugees for illegal entry.
The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has triggered an internal crisis and instability in the region. The ‘intra- Afghan’ talks did not reach any breakthrough. Taliban has regained control over the country and without the U.S. army, the armed group can easily exploit the human rights of the Afghanis. To aggravate the situation more, the existing crisis can easily escalate into a far bloodier prolonged civil war.