Documenting Afghanistan
Sep 22 · 4 min read

For Afghanistans internally displaced people’s, going home is a risk long after the war ends

By Mohammed Harun Arsalai

With his children and nephews running amuck in the dirt ground within their small living quarters, Shah Nawaz is noticingly anxious. His family kitchen is directly next to a small tent that used to cover a hole in the ground that leads nowhere - this is their toilet.

Shah Nawaz is 28 years old and has spent two years in the Nasaji refugee camp in the Bagrami district of Kabul, which has grown exponentially over the past years. Originally from neighboring Kapisa province, he now provides for nine people — including seven children — despite an arm permanently injured in a U.S. drone strike.

“We just want to go back to our homes. We dont ask for much, but this war has made our lives impossible and has torn apart our community.” he says. “We cant go home due to the risk of drones, but after so many years of war, our community is now at war with itself - there doesnt seem to be any end to bloodshed.”

Nawaz is one of at least 2.6 million internally displaced people due to the violence in Afghanistan, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). In Kabul alone, there are at least 50 camps, and that number is growing rapidly.

Afghans are being deported steadily from Pakistan, Europe and elsewhere — another 700,000 returnees or deportees from Iran are expected by the end of 2019 — and many will have nowhere to turn but their own villages, where unexploded bombs often remain in the aftermath of years of fighting.

Civilian deaths are on the rise in Afghanistan, with such casualties increasing 27 percent from the first to the second quarter of 2019.

"More people were killed in Afghanistan last month (August 2019) than Syria and Yemen combined" according to the latest reports from BBC News. The reported added that "An average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August.

The findings show unrelenting violence affects almost the entire country as US negotiations to withdraw after 18 years of war are in disarray from a few tweets from a racist, belligerent and fascistic US president.

With a recent US drone strike that killed at least 30 innocent farmers, injuring another 70 in Nangarhar Province, and the recent botched Taliban attack on an intelligence facility that instead destroyed a hospital in Zabul - all sides continue to vie for power while civilians pay the price.

The first six months of 2019 saw deaths and injuries of civilians by pro-government forces (aka the U.S. military and the Afghan army) rise 31 percent from the same period in 2018. Meaning US and Afghan forces have killed more civilians this year than all antigovernment elements combined.

But it’s not just direct bombings and attacks that are killing people.


That’s according to Mohammad Wakil Jamshidi, deputy program manager at United Nations Mines Action Service or UNMAS. Within the raging war and pitched battles throughout the country between ISKP, the Taliban and Afghan forces backed up by the US military, an enormous number of bombs and other munitions, like mortars, IEDs or bullets are left behind unexploded.

According to recent data released by UNMAS,” humanitarian mine action actors have cleared more than 18 million items of ERW” since 1989.

“We have cleared almost all of the ERWs left behind by the Soviets and the regimes that came after,” says Jamshidi. “But due to the ongoing fighting, even if the peace deal between the Taliban, the USA and the Afghan government were to happen tomorrow, civilians will continue to die for decades to come due to the amount of unexploded weapons of war left behind.”

Afghanistan isn’t the only country that’s seen such ordnance take its toll. War in Vietnam ended more than four decades ago, but MAG International, a charity that attempts to dispose of leftover weapons of war, estimates that there are still 800,000 tons of unexploded bombs in the country.

The most vulnerable people in Afghanistan are those returning home to areas where fighting has ended, according to Jamshidi. “The Internally displaced Afghans (IDPs) will face the most danger once this war come to an end. Most of these IDPs haven’t been to their villages in decades now and are not familiar with these ordinances, especially children.” Nawaz’s ambition to return home could be a deadly one.

Just weeks before the UNAMA report was released in July — after startling UN reports on Afghanistan indicated a 39 percent rise in civilian victims of airstrikes between 2017 and 2018 — the Trump administration also rolled back an Obama-era Executive Order to account for civilian casualties in American military and CIA led airstrikes. That means the data will no longer be publicly delivered — or even collected — on those who may fall victims to the unexploded bombs still on the ground.

The cruel reality for Afghans is that death and destruction will continue long after foreign troops leave Afghanistan, but Trumps increase and reliance on aerial bombings in an insurance of that reality.

Mohammed Harun Arsalai, is writer and Co founder of Documenting Afghanistan

Follow on twitter: @ArsalaiM

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