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Peace won’t be found in silence or fear, says AIHRC chair 

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

One year ago today – February 28 – Afghans were buoyed by the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha, which they hoped would bring peace. Instead, today, a year later, targeted killings have spiked leaving thousands of civil society activists, government officials, journalists and even doctors fearing for their lives. 

Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), wrote in an op-ed piece, published in the Washington Post, that “every night, I lie awake wondering who will be next. I think of a colleague whose teenage son checks his car every morning for magnetic bombs. A husband saying goodbye to his wife as she leaves for work, wondering if today will be the day she is killed on her way to the office.”

She said that a year after the deal was signed, instead of ushering in peace “one of the most tangible changes has been an increase in targeted killings, mostly unclaimed, that have created an environment of terror and fear. 

“There were nearly three times the number of such attacks in 2020 compared with 2019; the casualties include the deaths of 11 human rights defenders and media workers in the past five months,” she wrote. 

Akbar pointed out that some of Afghanistan’s most important gains, its activists, community leaders and scholars, are being silenced at a time when, after the US-Taliban deal, Afghans had hoped for a reduction in violence and for inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

“While the Taliban denies involvement in most targeted attacks, it benefits from the environment of fear and hopelessness around the peace process and the lack of critical voices demanding an inclusive peace. 

“This reign of terror for Afghan civilians must end in order for a real peace process to begin,” Akbar wrote. 

She also pointed out that as the United States reviews its Afghanistan policy, it still has leverage — including the existing UN sanctions on the Taliban, the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and legitimacy, and the presence of international forces in Afghanistan — to help stop these attacks and encourage a ceasefire and an inclusive peace process.

She stated that her AIHRC colleagues know what it is to feel terror as the organization has lost three of its staff members in the past 18 months.

Akbar pointed out that these high levels of violence are forcing families to flee the country. 

“Every day I hear of another friend, journalist, academic, women’s rights activist or businessperson leaving the country. Their departures are creating an absence that will take another generation to fill. Those who can’t leave feel silenced by fear and have little chance of influencing the peace process,” she wrote.

Akbar also noted that it has been years since the last mass demonstration by Afghans – “for fear of attacks”. 

She also said that following the recent wave of assassinations, public debate has closed down, even in the virtual sphere. “This is even more true beyond Kabul, in rural areas where conflict has been the most savage.”

Akbar stated that while US President Joe Biden’s team has signaled that it will withdraw its last troops as per the agreement with the Taliban, if the group reduces violence. she said: “This is welcome but not enough. Even with overall violence levels down, targeted killings are silencing the voices needed to build pressure for peace.”

“The United States does not want Afghanistan to collapse into a catastrophic civil war as soon as it withdraws, after 20 years of assistance. But the narrow focus of the US-Taliban deal ignored the wider needs of the peace process, including the importance of civic space and the protection of civilians. This approach should be urgently reconsidered in Biden’s review,” she said.

Akbar stated that public participation is not a bonus that is “nice to have” but rather an inclusive process that builds momentum for peace and boosts the credibility of the process. 

Bringing traditional and nontraditional civil society voices to the table from across Afghanistan will bring a sense of urgency and bottom-up pressure on the parties.

She also stated that public participation can best be guaranteed through a ceasefire and that the US and its allies should utilize their leverage with both sides and the region to continue to push for an interim and immediate ceasefire that will create an opportunity for national engagement. 

“An immediate end to targeted killings, a ceasefire and the restoration of civic space will allow for broader inclusion in the talks, reviving hope and confidence in the process,” she said.

Akbar stated that the US can encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to create this enabling environment for peace. Afghans could then force hope back onto the table.

“We will not find peace in silence and fear,” Akbar stated.

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IEA claims militants involved in Daikundi clash, and no children killed

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(Last Updated On: November 27, 2022)

The Ministry of Interior of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), says nine militants were killed on Thursday at a house in Siyuk area of Shibar district of Daikundi province.

According to IEA officials, one Islamic Emirate soldier was also killed in the clash and two others were wounded. A woman who was in the house at the time was caught in crossfire and wounded in the leg.

Bilal Karimi, the deputy spokesman of the Islamic Emirate, said despite repeated attempts to get the militants to lay down their weapons they failed to do so. As a result, IEA security forces entered the house.

Karimi said all the militants killed had been armed.

According to Karimi, reports of children being killed and other damage incurred are not true.

Latif Nazari, Deputy Minister of Economy, said on Twitter that some elements have emerged that are trying to pit Hazaras against the IEA.

He tweeted that: “Hazaras are too alert to fall into their trap and their external stimuli. Interaction between the people and the emirate will continue.”

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Peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential: Erdogan

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday highlighted the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan, saying it is essential in terms of threats and risks.

“Peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential in terms of common threats and risks, beyond our humanitarian duty for our Afghan brothers,” Erdogan said in a joint press conference with Pakistan’s prime minister in Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Pakistan will continue to work together to “eliminate the effects of the humanitarian crisis faced by the Afghan people.”

The Turkish leader also commented on the situation in Afghanistan as he said establishing “peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential in terms of common threats and risks, beyond our humanitarian duty for our Afghan brothers.”

He said they will continue to work together to “eliminate the effects of the humanitarian crisis faced by the Afghan people.”

Erdogan also pointed to the solidarity and mutual cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan and reiterated Ankara’s support for Islamabad’s counter-terrorism efforts.

“We have always seen Pakistan’s pain as our pain, its joy as our joy and its success as our success,” he said.

For his part, Pakistani PM Shahbaz Sharif proposed extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), inviting Turkey to join the multi-billion-dollar project.

“China and Pakistan are great friends and we are experiencing and enjoying the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative of (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping). I would suggest let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan, and Türkiye,” Sharif said, calling it a “wonderful joint cooperation.”

Sharif also said such cooperation among the three nations “will bring prosperity and progress in this entire region.”

“This will help the alleviation of poverty and unemployment. This will promote education and this is how we can really meet the challenges of today,” the Pakistani prime minister said.

Sharif said he will be “very happy” to talk to his “Chinese friends.”

“If we can move in this direction, I think, this would be a wonderful opportunity to really capitalise” he added.

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UN, Uzbekistan discuss Int’l Group to negotiate with IEA government

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

Deputy head of UNAMA and Uzbekistan’s foreign minister have discussed implementing an initiative to set up an International Group to negotiate with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government.

“We discussed situation in Afghanistan, implementing initiative to set up an International Group to negotiate with Afghan government to agree algorithm for the earliest fulfilling of mutual obligations of the parties,” Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov said on Twitter Friday.

Meanwhile, UNAMA said on Friday its deputy head Markus Potzel concluded his series of meetings with government officials in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on additional regional support to the Afghan people.

“UNAMA will continue its work with all regional actors to assist efforts for a meaningful peace in Afghanistan,” UNAMA said on Twitter.

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