Seventy percent of surveyed Afghans see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of conflict in their country, according to new research by international aid agency Oxfam and a group of Afghan organizations. Ordinary Afghans blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming in third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.
Oxfam’s new joint report, “The Cost of War,” paints a grim picture of a country plagued by 30 years of fighting. The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country reveals:
* one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
* one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979; and
* three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said:
“The people of Afghanistan have suffered through 30 years of violent conflict. In that time, Afghan society has been devastated as millions have been killed and millions more have fled their homes. Those who have committed the most terrible abuses have largely not faced justice.
“Repairing this damage can’t happen overnight. It will take a long time for the economic, social, and psychological scars to heal. The international community must recognize that Afghanistan needs more than military solutions. It needs support for agriculture, better infrastructure and schools, and health services must improve.
“Ordinary Afghans want peace and an end to conflict, and they want the root causes of fighting to be addressed. One man told us: ‘If people are jobless they are capable of anything.’ With poverty driving the conflict, the international community must bear his words in mind and provide more effective aid to help kick-start the Afghan economy.”
Looking over the 30 years of conflict since the Soviets invaded in 1979, one in ten people surveyed had been imprisoned at least once. One in five (21 percent) were tortured, either in jail or by the various armed groups. A third of those tortured were women. Just one percent reported receiving any form of compensation or apology for the harm done to them.
Azim Mohammad from Nangarhar said: “What do you think the effect that two million Afghans martyred, seventy percent of Afghanistan destroyed and our economy eliminated has had on us? Half our people have been driven mad. A man who is thirty or forty years old looks like he is seventy. We always live in fear. We are not secure anywhere in Afghanistan.”
There was a widespread feeling among all the participants that poverty, corruption, injustice, and civilian suffering have fuelled the spread of insecurity.
As part of the research, Afghans were asked to give their suggestions to the politicians, military forces, insurgent groups, and the international community. They wanted the establishment of the rule of law at all levels, a crackdown on corruption, and an end to the culture of impunity.
Many thought foreign aid from governments does not currently reach the people who need it most and wanted to see this money improve health and education services and help create jobs.
There was a strong sense that both sides on the conflict must prioritize the safety of Afghan civilians. There have been 2,021 civilian casualties up until October of this year.
Offenheiser said: “Afghans surveyed felt that the Taliban and other insurgents should immediately stop targeting civilians and stop taking refuge in civilian areas, which puts normal Afghans on the front lines of the conflict.
“All sides must work to protect civilians. International forces should tighten their restrictions on air strikes and night raids. They must transparently investigate all allegations of harm to civilians and provide appropriate forms of redress.”
Click here to download "The Cost of War" report.