According to the annual report of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) published on Wednesday, January 27, at least 3,000 Afghan civilians were killed and over 5,000 were wounded in 2020. Among those killed in various attacks were 2,958 children and 847 women.
While the percentage of civilian deaths last year came down to around 21%, the total death count continues to remain on rise. The country has been described by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan as among the deadliest places in the world to be a citizen. As per deputy head of the AIHRC Naeem Nazari, “there is a catastrophe going on in Afghanistan.”
According to the 15-page AIHRC report, between January 2009 to December 2020, “a total of 93,492 civilians, including women and children have been killed or injured. Among the total civilian casualties – 31,425 were killed and 62,067 injured.”
As per the report’s estimates, at least 4,568 civilians were killed or injured by Taliban insurgents while unidentified groups were responsible for killing and wounding 2,107 civilians. The Afghan forces killed or injured 1,188 civilians, as per its findings.
“The Taliban in recent times has committed major crimes without taking responsibility for them. The Taliban have martyred thousands of our civilian compatriots,” said Tariq Arian, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior. However, the ministry did not acknowledge the rights violations committed by the Afghan forces.
The report of the United Nations released in April 2019 had documented how pro-government and international forces were responsible for more deaths in the period between January to March that year.
Ever since the intra-Afghan talks began in Qatar last year, the rate of airstrikes carried out by the Afghan armed forces has almost doubled. The report “Afghanistan’s Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Aistrikes” found that “the Afghan Air Forces have killed 70 civilians and injured 90 others” between July and September 2020.
The AIHRC findings also suggest that the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mine blasts has been especially lethal for civilians, claiming at least 923 lives and injuring 1,649 others last year.
“The perpetrator for most of these cases are not identified yet. This tactic has been often used against members of security and defense forces, human rights defenders, civil society activists, civil servants, religious scholars, media workers, and local elders,” the report states.
The report also highlights that the damage caused to private and public infrastructure, especially to schools and hospitals, last year has been unprecedented. “As many as 151 schools across Afghanistan have either partially or entirely been damaged, out of which nine schools were set on fire by unidentified persons,” as per the report. Additionally, at least 17 schools have been turned into military bases by the Afghan government. Taliban has similarly also occupied seven schools.
The report further notes that “31 schools continue to remain under security threat because military bases have been established near these schools.” At least 22 students were killed by gunmen inside Kabul University in November 2020. The responsibility for the attack was later taken by ISIS.
Around 106 clinics and hospitals have also suffered damage in the fighting last year. According to the findings of the report, “two clinics have been turned into military bases by the government, and 19 other clinics are under security threat.”