By Pranava Pakala
Save the Children is a UK-based organisation which has been granted consultive status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It works for the betterment of young people in war zones and operates in over 120 countries. The charity has been active in Afghanistan since 1976 and they work in about 16 provinces in the country. They have continued their work for the welfare of Afghan children despite facing regular attacks and kidnappings.
Two killed in Jalalabad attack
The charity’s Afghan unit in Jalalabad was stormed by gunmen on Wednesday. The attackers first detonated bombs outside the office and then forced themselves into the premises. At least two people have been killed and 12 others injured, officials say. It is believed that about 50 staff were in the building at the time of the siege.
The Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State group has said three of its fighters are behind the attack, which dragged on through sporadic gunfights for nearly the whole day. The Islamic State group said in a message on its news outlet Amaq that three attackers and an explosives-laden car had targeted “British, Swedish and Afghan institutions in Jalalabad.” IS has exercised control over the city since 2015.
According to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, the attack started at about 09:10 local time (04:40 GMT) on Wednesday when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle explosive at the entrance to the Save the Children office. One of the eyewitnesses who was inside the compound at the time told AFP news agency that he saw a gunman hitting the main gate with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).
The Taliban has denied any role in Wednesday’s attack. However, they had earlier initiated another attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul which was frequented by foreigners, during which almost 22 people lost their lives.
Following the horrific attack at its office, Save the Children temporarily suspended all of its operations in the landlocked country. Their home office in the UK said that it was ‘devastated’ on the news of the attack and that the safety of their employees was their primary concern. Despite the temporary shutdown, the organisation is insisting that it remains committed to resuming their operations as soon as possible. The UN’s mission in Afghanistan also responded, saying: “Attacks directed at civilians or aid organisations are clear violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”
A rise in violence around the country
Afghanistan has been a hotbed for militancy in the recent past. Attacks have increased exponentially as the new democratic order started to take charge. The United Nations has documented 8,397 civilian casualties as of September 30, 2017, which is approximately the same number as the record set in the first nine months of 2015.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups have been responsible for 61% of the attacks, most from IEDs and suicide bombers. Government forces, including unofficial militias, caused 23% of civilian casualties. The total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has also increased exponentially over the past year, with the number amounting to a whopping 1.3 million people according to Human Rights Watch. The organisation has also described in its annual report how these IDPs live in informal settlements with lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, and education.
Despite the violence, Afghanistan is taking small steps towards protecting the rights of women. In 2009 the Afghan parliament enacted the landmark Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, although this has been notably opposed by the parliamentary Judicial Commission, headed by Nazir Ahmad Hanafi. Nevertheless, the new law has established provisions that regulate the minimum age of marriage, prescribe punishments for domestic assault, and provide for women’s shelters. The country still has a long way to go in terms of human rights and the participation of civil society in governance but the pace of reform seems to be gaining momentum.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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