UN Mission in Afghan documents terror attacks on Sikhs, other religious minorities

There were over 3,400 civilian casualties in the war-torn nation in the first half of 2020.

The UN mission in Afghanistan has documented attacks by Islamic militants on the Sikh community and other religious minorities in the country and said there were over 3,400 civilian casualties in the war-torn nation in the first half of 2020.

The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict mid-year report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the first half of 2020 witnessed fluctuating levels of violence impacting civilians in Afghanistan, with the United Nations documenting 3,458 civilian casualties (1,282 killed and 2,176 injured).

"UNAMA also continued to document attacks from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) on religious minorities in Afghanistan, including the Sikh community and the Shi'a Muslim population, most of whom also belong to the Hazara ethnic group," the report said.

The report noted that while the civilian casualty figures of 3,458 represent a 13 per cent decrease as compared to the first six months of 2019, Afghanistan "remains one of the deadliest conflicts in the world for civilians".

In March, heavily armed gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a Sikh gurdwara in the Shor Bazar area in the heart of Afghanistan's capital Kabul, killing at least 25 worshippers and wounding 8 others, in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority community in the country. Authorities said 80 people, including women and children, were rescued from the gurdwara...

...The report said there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and Afghan national security forces and the main reason for the lower number of civilian casualties is due to a reduction in operations by international military forces and the ISIL-K Province.

At a time when the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and the head of UNAMA Deborah Lyons said...

...The report notes that children in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable to recruitment and use by parties to the conflict, including for combat functions, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also underscores the lasting impact of the armed conflict on civilians. New monitoring by UNAMA shows that victims suffer incalculable harm weeks and months after an incident occurs, including physically, emotionally and psychologically, financially and otherwise, affecting their ability to enjoy a broad range of human rights. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the ability of victims to recover, making it even more imperative for the parties to the conflict to reduce the violence now and acknowledge and address the needs and rights of the victims.

The experiences, rights and needs of individuals and communities who have been affected by violence must be a central consideration in the upcoming peace talks, said Fiona Frazer, the Chief of Human Rights at UNAMA. 

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