UN report highlights Afghan conflict’s toll on women

About 4,900 civilians killed in first half 2015, with women and children particularly affected by violence, UNAMA says.

Violence against civilians in continued conflict in Afghanistan has taken a specific toll on women and children, with a 23 percent rise in women casualties and 13 percent rise in child casualties, according to new UN report.

The report, released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Wednesday, said that there were 4,900 documented civilian casualties in the first half of 2015, an increase in total civilian casualties by one percent as compared to the first six months of 2014.

“Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict,” Nicholas Haysom, head of UNAMA, said.

“The devastating consequences of this violence against civilians as documented in this report should serve to strengthen the broad conviction that peace is urgently needed.

“Until peace is achieved, all parties to the conflict must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to minimise the impact of the conflict on civilians and match their public statements on the protection of civilians with concrete actions.”

Haysom is also the UN secretary-general’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

Dominic Medley, a UNAMA spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that a significant portion of the increase in female casualties can be blamed on a combination of factors including more ground fighting and the kind of weaponry being used.

Faltering peace process

The growing insecurity comes as Afghan security forces face their first summer of fighting without full NATO support.

The report coincides with a faltering peace process, with the Taliban reportedly confronting a bitter power transition after Mullah Omar’s death.

A striking 90 percent of civilian casualties had come from from ground engagements, improvised explosive devices, complex and suicide attacks and targeted killings, the report said.

The report said 1,592 civilians were killed, a six percent fall over last year, while the number of injured jumped four percent to 3,329.

Civilian deaths and injuries caused by pro-government forces caused 16 percent of civilian casualties during ground battles, recording a total of 60 percent increase in pro-government battles.

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Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, reporting from Kabul, pointed to the deadly impact of mortar and rocket attacks by government forces and the Taliban’s use of suicide bomb attacks and improvised explosive devices (IED).

He said the bulk of the deaths and injuries suffered by female civilians could be blamed on IEDs which missed their targeted military vehicles and instead struck public-transport vehicles.

“It is not a custom for women to drive in the country, so they have to use buses, which are regularly hit by the blasts,” he said.

He said military fire that missed Taliban fighters often ended up striking houses, where women spend much of their time due to Afghan cultural norms.

Afghanistan is now witnessing its fourteenth straight year of conflict [AP]
Afghanistan is now witnessing its fourteenth straight year of conflict [AP]

Ground battles between parties saw a 19 percent decrease in casualties yet remained the leading cause of civilan deaths, followed by IEDs, which saw a 21 percent decrease in resulting casualties.

The slight increase recorded in civilian harm is primarily a result of increase in suicide and complex attacks and targeted killings, the third and the fourth leading causes of civilian casualties respectively.

However, targeted killing became the leading cause of civilian deaths in the first half of 2015.

Suicide and complex attacks executed by fighters caused 1,022 civilian casualties, a 78 per cent increase compared to the first six months of 2014. Civilian casualties from targeted killings increased by 57 per cent.

“Impunity for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law has been reigning for too long in Afghanistan, and fuelling the cycle of violence. There need to be urgent, concrete steps towards accountability, to break this venomous cycle,” Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

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According to the report, peace talks have made no impact on the Taliban fight for control of territory.

Taliban and other groups continued to launch complex and suicide attacks and carried out targeted killings of civilians in the first half of 2015.

Afghanistan has been suffering through decades of war and conflict fighting the Taliban movement as well as other insurgent groups.

The UN began tracking civilian casualties in 2009, more than 19,300 deaths and 33,250 injuries have been recorded.

The constant increase in killings and injuries has been demonstrated as a continued failure of parties to protect the civilians from harm, the UN said.

Ryan Rifai reported for this story from Doha

Source: Al Jazeera