SAR-E-PUL - Children should be protected from all grave violations resulting from conflict including abuse and being recruited as soldiers, said participants at UN-backed events in the northern provinces of Samangan and Sar-e Pul.
Community leaders including civil society, rights activists, religious leaders and members of the Child Protection Action Network gathered in the provincial capitals of Aybak and Sar-e Pul to advocate for stricter measures to protect children from the impact of the conflict. Discussants said that the conflict's impact on children is immeasurable and detrimental to peace, development and Afghanistan's future.
"Children should not be recruited, abused or killed in conflict," said Qari Sayed Agha. He cited Islamic teachings, as well as national and international laws which prohibit violations against children. "Religious teachings instruct us to protect children, not to violate them," said Agha, a Samangan-based Imam.
Thousands of children in Afghanistan have been killed, injured, maimed, and displaced during the last decade. As many as 653 children have been killed and 1,483 injured in the conflict between January and September 2018, according to UNAMA's latest Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, accounting for 60 per cent of the total civilian casualties.
Northern provinces have in the recent years witnessed a deterioration in the security situation that has displaced thousands of children and families. Children pay the ultimate price by being killed, maimed, recruited, abducted, used as child soldiers, and are victims of sexual violence.
Among 250 insurgents that surrendered to the government in Jawzjan province earlier this year, at least 55 were confirmed to be children, including four who were under 12 years old. "It is the responsibility of government to protect the children and prosecute those who violate the laws," said Ismatullah Haidari, a civil society activist from Sar-e-Pul.
In making the their recommendations, participants appealed to all parties to the conflict to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian laws to protect children by among others by respecting schools, hospitals and civilian locations.
UNAMA's regional office in Mazar organised the discussions as part of a country-wide outreach initiative aimed at creating platforms for local communities to engage in dialogue on critical issues.