Effects of armed conflict on Afghan children highlighted at UN-backed Herat film festival

6 Sep 2016

Effects of armed conflict on Afghan children highlighted at UN-backed Herat film festival

HERAT - An Afghan student took both Best Film and Best Director awards at Herat’s first ever film festival on the effects of armed conflict on children, held over the weekend in Herat city, the capital of western Herat province.

Around 220 film aficionados, critics and partners attended the one-day event in which mostly young filmmakers from Herat and Badghis provinces -- including women and members of the disabled community -- submitted 32 short films.

The Best Film and Best Director awards went to Mahbooba Barat -- a 16-year-old high school student from Herat -- for her film “Ja Khali” (Empty Space). The film depicts the story of a young boy who desperately wants to continue his education but is forced to quit school and work as he becomes the sole breadwinner after his father’s conflict-related death.

“I found the festival theme very strong and useful, and therefore I was motivated to make a short film about the effects of armed conflict on Afghan children,” said Ms. Barat.

Awards were also given for best actor, actress, child actor, child actress, cinematographer and editor. Entries were reviewed by a four-person panel drawn from civil society, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA.

The festival provided an opportunity for Afghans from all walks of life to exercise their cultural rights with courage and innovation. Many of the films reflected personal experiences or told the story of those closest to the writer.

UNAMA's Human Rights Director Danielle Bell, who participated in the event, said the films touched on important and timely issues facing children, including the effects of conflict on family life, education and healthcare; the devastating impact of explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices on children; and recruitment and use of children by parties to the conflict.

According to UNAMA’s 2016 Protection of Civilians Midyear Report, the first half of this year saw 1,509 child casualties (388 deaths and 1,121 injured). Children accounted for 85 per cent of all civilian casualties caused by Explosive Remnants of War, the second leading cause of child casualties.

Aria Roafian, Director of the Information and Culture Department, emphasized the importance of advocacy and awareness-raising programmes for children affected by armed conflict.

A documentary is currently being produced to highlight the journey of the film makers, the production process and their personal experience in participating in the festival itself.

The event was organized by UNAMA and OHCHR.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.

OHCHR, as the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights for all, leads global human rights efforts and speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide. OHCHR provides a forum for identifying, highlighting and developing responses to today's human rights challenges, and acts as the principal focal point of human rights research, education, public information, and advocacy activities in the United Nations system.


Selected films are available for viewing in English, Dari and Pashto on UNAMA’s Facebook pages in English, Dari, and Pashto

The entire set of English subtitled films is available on YouTube here.

The entire set of Dari films is available on YouTube here.

The entire set of Pashtu subtitled films is available on YouTube here.