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Afghan woman putting her life at risk to rid her home of mines

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(Last Updated On: April 4, 2021)

The UK Embassy in Kabul says that over 1.6 million Afghans have received mine risk education and more than 30 km2 of productive land have been also cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) in the last three years to save lives and promote agriculture.

Marking the Mine Awareness Day, the British Embassy stated with the UK has been providing support to United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the last three years, aimed at helping the war-torn country manage mine clearance operations.

Fezeh Rezaye, a 26-year-old mother of two, is a member of a 19-strong, all-female demining team, honored for their efforts by the Arms Control Association, which awarded them the Arms Control Person International Award in 2019.

Rezaye explains that how a tragic incident led her to put aside her ambition to be a teacher, and take up a risky demining job instead.

“I had known several people from my village who have been injured or killed by mines in Bamyan. Even our landlord lost his leg in a landmine accident. But it was the death of seven children, all from the same family in our village that really affected me. They had been together in the mountains when they were all killed by a mine explosion. I thought about my own children, that this could have happened to them,” said Rezaye.

Before joining demining team Rezaye was teaching literacy to rural women in Bamyan province. She says that everyone including his family disagreed with her decision to become a deminer.

“My friends and family, including my children, disagreed with my decision to become a deminer. I would tell them that, for the sake of my future and for my children, I wanted Bamyan to be free from mines so that everyone can study and enjoy life,” Rezaye said.

Most families in Afghanistan look at this job as dangerous and risky work and are not welling their daughter’s life.

Rezaye also speaks about threats and challenges against her job in the country.

“I am concerned about my job security because, once these are cleared, I may not be able to work in other provinces, many of which are dominated by the Taliban,” said Rezaye.

Rezaye says that she is also interested in completing a master’s in sociology or archaeology.

Rezaye and her female demining team were the first female deminers team in Afghanistan.

“Winning the Arms Control Award made a big difference for me and the team. After we won, we were recognized by Afghan society and became idols for many women. We were the first female demining team in Afghanistan, and we proved that women can work as hard as men, that we are equal to them, she added.

More than three decades of armed conflict in Afghanistan has left a sorry legacy, with mines, and other explosive remnants of war, contaminating the country. Since 1989, the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) has been working to clear this dangerous material but, with the conflict still ongoing, some 120 civilian mine-related casualties are recorded every month, and it is considered unlikely that the target of declaring the country free from mines will be reached.

Although explosive remnants of war remain on some firing ranges, Bamyan was declared mine-free since 2019, making it the first mine-free province in Afghanistan, following years of demining work that saw explosive devices removed from some 27,012,116 square meters of contaminated land with explosive devices.

But, in general, Bamyan society is more open than other parts of the country: this is a poor province, with high unemployment, and demining is one of the few opportunities for women to earn money.

As of 2020, Afghanistan is one of the countries most affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the world. Around 32,000 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise canceled since 1989, yet some 1,495 communities remain affected by explosive ordnance (EO) to this day.

Over 38,000 explosive ordnance casualties have been recorded since 1979 (2,090 women, 2,322 girls, 14,646 boys, 19,590 men) of which almost 10,000 resulted in death and more than 29,000 in injuries.

In recent years, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have become one of the leading causes of civilian casualties in the country.

In 2019 alone, explosive ordnance contamination resulted in 1,692 casualties (143 girls, 122 women, 716 boys, 711 men), resulting in 650 deaths and 1,042 injured victims. The accidents were almost entirely caused by ERW and improvised mines (IM).

Men and boys tend to be killed and injured at a far higher rate than women and girls. Numbers for all groups at least doubled in 2014-2019 compared to 2008-2013, largely due to a sharp increase in IM casualties.

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IEA accuse Tajikistan of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2021)

Tajikistan is interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Sunday.

“Tajikistan interferes in our affairs, for every action there is a reaction,” Baradar said in an interview with al Jazeera TV channel.

A day earlier, IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that the IEA had sent thousands of fighters to the Afghan province of Takhar, which borders Tajikistan. According to Mujahid, this was needed to counter security threats.

Earlier this month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon suggested creating “a security belt” around Afghanistan to prevent the potential expansion of terrorist groups. Rahmon was speaking at a joint summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which was focused on the recent developments in Afghanistan.

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India’s Modi tells UNGA Afghanistan cannot be used to spread terrorism

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

At the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, including women and children.

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

His comments came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan in a pre-recorded message to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“There’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere if a destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Afghanistan is on “the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster” and has decided to engage the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in order to help the country’s people.

Khan said Guterres had “taken bold steps. I urge you to mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”

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UN agency warns of ‘imminent’ famine in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem said.

She also warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the IEA and said: “The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

IEA leaders have assured the international community that they are more moderate than when they ruled previously.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

Kanem pointed out that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.

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