Saturday, December 5, 2020

What future awaits for war-torn Afghanistan?

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For the last four decades, the Afghan nation has been suffering from devastating wars and bloody conflicts. First, the Afghan jihad that started in the year 1979 created a generation of fundamentalists and extremists in Afghan society. It even affected its neighbors when religious extremism started importing in the surrounding region. Then, we observed the Afghan civil war that started in the 1990s after Soviet withdrawal, which destroyed the culture and fabrics of the Afghan society. This conflict created a rift and friction between different ethnic and racial groups of Afghanistan; Tajik, Pashtun, Hazara, and Uzbek.

The Tajiks did not like the Pashtuns, the Pashtuns did not like the Hazaras and the Hazara did not like the Uzbeks. Afghan society as a whole fell down a dark hole of madness and chaos. Then, soon after the emergence of the Taliban, we saw America’s war on terror in 2001. This was the time when we observed the downfall of the Afghan nation and saw its society go into ruins. The superpower started bombing the country that was already war-torn.

Impacts of war on the youth

Behind all these political strategies and proxy wars of powerful regional and international powers, we often forget the social impacts of the conflict on the people, especially the children and the young generation. The only fault of these children is that they were born in a war zone. The Afghan children and the young generation, in their 20s, have only seen war in their childhood and youth. Even the Afghans, in their 30s, have only been exposed to bloodshed and violence as they reach their middle age. Conflict and war have now been embedded in the minds of the Afghan people and Afghan children. It has been engraved in the culture and the fabrics of the very society.

According to research, the majority of Afghan children do not reach the age of nine because in one way or the other, the die because of war or the effects of war

Read more: Afghanistan: A graveyard of empires?

War shapes the lives of Afghan children

The Afghan children have been exposed to so much bloodshed and conflict, they have been witness to such violence in their everyday life that now, they have been desensitized to any kind of violence and murder. Ammunition and guns have become a crucial part of the Afghan culture, which is devastating for grooming children. Unfortunately, the youth that is considered to be the future of a nation has now been caught in between the clutches of war and extremism. There also have been many incidents of Afghan children being kidnapped by different terrorist groups for recruitment. These innocent children are converted into bloodthirsty monsters by brainwashing their innocent minds with extremist ideas of hatred and violence.  It is hard for them to come back in the right direction after only being taught destruction from a young age.

It is ironic that in the war, which is caused by great powers to obtain their strategic policies and goals, the ultimate victims are the children

Another side effect of the war in Afghanistan is an increase in pedophilia in the society; “Bachabazi” is a concept of having sexual relations with underage children. Unfortunately, this pedophile concept is now a part of the Afghan culture and we see this practice in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province as well.

Psychological impacts of war

According to research, the majority of Afghan children do not reach the age of nine because in one way or the other, the die because of war or the effects of war. Not so long ago, a video on social media went viral when a bunch of kids bullied a Syrian refugee kid by shouting at him that the airplanes were coming to bomb, the Syrian kid got so traumatized that he hid himself behind a swing in that park. This is the psychological impact of war on children. The Afghan children also suffer from Post-War-Traumatic-Syndrome-Disorder in the same manner the Syrian children and the American soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan face.

Read more: Afghanistan, world’s least peaceful country: Who is responsible?

UN statistics on Afghan war

Let me give some UN statistics on the Afghan children. 46% of children from age 12 to 23 months have not received their basics. 1 in 3 girls are married before they reach the age of 18. 2 in 5 children cannot reach full mental or physical development. 1.3 million children under the age of 5 years need treatment for acute malnutrition. 3.7 million children are ‘out-of-school’ and 60% of them are girls. Only 19% of females under the age of 15 years are literate. Afghanistan is still fighting polio with 14 cases reported in 2017. These are the side effects of different wars imposed on the Afghan society over the years with children being the final target. The amount of casualties, injured and handicapped children from war are far more devastating than the things mentioned above as 31,000 civilians have been killed in war related violence from only the year 2001 till now.

Children are the ultimate victims of war

It is ironic that in the war, which is caused by great powers to obtain their strategic policies and goals, the ultimate victims are the children, they are the one who are affected the most, and they are the ones deprived of education. Unfortunately, they do not get the opportunity to show their real potential as the future of the nation, because they are the generation of war and there is absolutely nothing they can do to change that.

Read more: Why is UN nowhere to be seen in Afghanistan?

The writer is a masters student of Mass Communication at National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad. He writes on geo-politics, international development and strategic affairs with a special focus on Af-Pak affairs, Asia and Middle East. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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