Civilian victims of Afghan conflict gather in Mazar to call for inclusion in peace efforts
MAZAR-E-SHARIF - Civilians injured in Afghanistan’s conflict, along with family members of those killed, gathered for a daylong event in the country’s north to make their voices heard on peace.
Dozens of people came from provinces across Afghanistan’s northern region to Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh, to attend the symposium organized by UNAMA’s Mazar regional office.
The event, which included civil society representatives, human rights defenders and peace advocates, provided a platform for victims of the long-running conflict in Afghanistan to call for the inclusion of their voices in any discussions about peace.
During the event, those injured in the conflict, along with family members of those killed, recounted stories about the impact of the conflict on their lives.
Hamayoon Hakimi, who is now 26 years old, told the story of how he was blinded by a mortar while he was a child and described what it was like to grow up in the context of war without being able to see. He also told the story of how his elder sister survived an attack but ended up paralyzed.
“I don’t want any other Afghan child to go through what I experienced,” said Hakimi. “War is ugly and unforgiving; war has no winner.”
Others in attendance recounted similar stories in the interest of conveying the suffering caused to families in the north and across Afghanistan.
Since 2009, when UNAMA began systematic documentation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Mission has identified patterns of extreme harm caused to civilians in the ongoing armed conflict.
UNAMA’s 2019 mid-year report on the protection of civilians recorded 3,812 civilian casualties from January to June. Of those civilian casualties, 1,207 were children, representing almost one-third of the overall total number of civilian casualties recorded during that period.
At the end of the discussion, participants at the Mazar symposium jointly requested all those involved in any peace efforts in Afghanistan to acknowledge the voices of victims and to include victims in any discussions that might lead to a reconciliation process.
UNAMA works closely with all parties to the conflict to monitor and report any rights violations committed in the context of the armed conflict and to promote accountability.
In addition to working with parties to the conflict to promote accountability, UNAMA also works with various institutions and individuals, including community leaders, youth groups, women and local media stations to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.