Religious scholars gather at UN-backed event to discuss civilian casualties

20 May 2018

Religious scholars gather at UN-backed event to discuss civilian casualties

KABUL - To protect civilians during the armed conflict, the support of everyone in Afghan society, especial religious scholars, is crucial, participants said at a UN-backed symposium in Afghanistan’s capital.

Religious leaders from Kabul, Parwan, Kapisa, Logar and Maidan Wardak discussed the recent violence against civilians and talked about practical steps to address what many have characterized as an endemic problem in Afghanistan.

“Religious scholars can have a meaningful impact in preventing civilian casualties,” said Saeed Mohammad Hossain Mohaqqeqzada, a member of the Shia Ulema Council. “For example, they can share the fact that, according to the Islam, places of worship and civilians themselves must be protected during the conflict.”

Stressing the importance of public awareness, those gathered at the one-day symposium called for education and outreach as the most effective solution to eliminating targeted attacks against civilians, and they agreed that Afghanistan’s religious leaders have a critical role to play in their communities in highlighting the issue.

In the interest of amplifying the messages of leaders from Afghanistan’s religious communities, Abdul Saieed, a scholar from Parwan, suggested broadcasting special radio and television programs, featuring religious leaders talking about protecting civilians. “People could learn from these programmes,” he said.

Hafizullah Salam, the head of Kabul’s Hajj and Religious Affairs Department, echoed these sentiments, and stressed that during the armed conflict, civilians must be protected. “To protect civilians, there must be strong coordination during any military operations,” he added.

The participants also discussed attacks specifically targeting civilians as violations of international humanitarian law, and agreed that all parties to the conflict must at all times uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm.

The one-day event was organized by UNAMA’s central regional office in Kabul, as part of a series of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the armed conflict on civilians.

UNAMA began to systematically monitor and report on the situation of civilians in armed conflict in Afghanistan in 2009. The reports are available online:

UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, 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.

UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.