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Red Cross and Red Crescent reach 35-year milestone of serving communities in need

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(Last Updated On: March 3, 2021)

After 35 years of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Tuesday reconfirmed their commitment to continue jointly providing lifesaving assistance to communities affected by war and violence.

In the 35 years of joint cooperation, the movement has reconnected thousands of families separated by disasters or violence; provided vital health care particularly for communities living in remote parts of the country; clarified the fate of the dead and worked to return the remains of the deceased to their families; and restored water and shelter among other vital humanitarian activities.

ARCS has also mobilized all teams and facilities in the COVID response effort over the past year and continues its engagement, including for the COVID vaccine rollout.

In a statement issued by the movement on Wednesday, they said that ARCS is present and active in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan through a wide network of local branches, volunteers and health facilities.

Every year, ARCS reaches more than 10 percent of the Afghan population through principled humanitarian action, the statement read.

“It has built trust and acceptance across the lines of conflict and with Afghan communities they belong to. ARCS has also the privilege to belong to the Red Cross and Crescent Movement which has been standing on its side always to support its development, meet the needs of people affected by disasters and crises and contribute to build more resilient Afghan communities,” said Nilab Mobarez, the Secretary General of Afghanistan Red Crescent Society, at a news conference.

“Although the shape of conflict and violence may have changed over the last decades, our commitment to protect civilians and promote respect for international humanitarian law has been constant. We’re proud of this and honoured to continue to work with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to provide humanitarian assistance,” said Juan Pedro Head of Delegation for ICRC in Afghanistan.

“In the face of protracted vulnerabilities, including to climate change, the magnitude and intensity of the needs across the country call for enhanced cooperation of Red Cross Red Crescent partners to deepen our support to ARCS’ principled and nation-wide footprint, and to maximise our collective contribution and impact,” said Pierre Kremer, Head of Delegation for IFRC.

Against the backdrop of this milestone, the movement has signed an MoU and a Movement Coordination Agreement setting out their agreement to jointly deliver humanitarian assistance.

“This event aims to ensure a partnership of quality and mutual responsibility that seeks to achieve the highest humanitarian impact. The agreement sets a standard framework for administration, reporting and accountability, within which individual projects and initiatives can take place,” the statement read.

The ICRC and ARCS have worked in partnership since 1986 in addressing the conflict related needs of the Afghan population. The ICRC and ARCS’s commitment to neutral, independent, impartial humanitarian action (NIIHA), enable both partners to respond to emergencies and provide services where others cannot.

ARCS has worked to reduce suffering for people affected by disasters, conflict and violence since its creation in 1934.

The cooperation between ARCS and the ICRC stretches back further to the recognition of ARCS as a national society by movement in 1954 continuing to the present day with adaptations based on evolving humanitarian landscape, needs of the victims and other vulnerable persons as well as the institutional development of the ARCS and the operational ambitions of the ICRC in Afghanistan.

The Federation has had a constant presence in Afghanistan since 1990, to support ARCS and its humanitarian activities.

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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Afghan swimmer makes waves in World Para Series in Texas

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi won a silver medal at the World Para Swimming Series tournament in Texas on Friday evening in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 category.

Posting the news on his Facebook page, Karimi said: “I won this medal for 80 million refugees in the world.”

The Afghan-born swimmer is competing as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for the Tokyo Olympics.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para-swimming event. In 2018 he also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, Karimi said about his latest win: “This medal is cool but I want Paralympic medals [from Tokyo].”

More than 100 swimmers have come together in Louisville, Texas for this year’s major swimming contest.

Karimi has so far secured first place in 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly heats in his category, and second place in the 200m freestyle heat.

Karimi is also expected to take part in the 50m backstroke event in his category on Sunday.

“Thank you so much, everyone, who’s been supporting and praying for me,” Karimi wrote.

Should Karimi make it to the Tokyo Paralympics, he will be the first Afghan to do so.

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EU envoy urges Taliban to attend Istanbul peace conference

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt has called on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations with the Afghan government.

Addressing the inauguration of the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub” by a group of Afghan journalists and media officials in Kabul, Von Brandt said that the Taliban should not miss opportunities for maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

“As we entered in the holy month of Ramadan I still hope that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them in Istanbul,” he said.

“There is actually no time to waste,” Von Brandt stressed.

“If the Taliban want to be part of a government in Afghanistan, benefit from our development assistance from our trade, from our humanitarian aid, from the international exposure they better start seriously negotiating,” the EU diplomat said.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday announced that a full withdrawal of troops would start from May 1 and end by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

EU Ambassador stated that the organization would continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond foreign troop withdrawal.

“Let one thing be clear the EU delegation will continue to be here and continue to do its work,” Von Brandt said.

He, meanwhile, called on the warring parties to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“Understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed,” Von Brandt said.

“It is an example…how the blood on the battlefield can be exchanged for patience at the negotiating table, how horrific conflicts and wars can be ended through joint institutions.”

“But all these needs of course compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions,” he added.

He emphasized that if war continues or intensifies “everybody will lose terribly”.

“Of course we are strong supporters to an inclusive peace process that reflects the concerns of the people of Afghanistan that includes women, war victims, civil society, and of course all groups of the population,” he said.

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