• UN announces 2015 the deadliest year for Afghan civilians

UN announces 2015 the deadliest year for Afghan civilians

29 February 2016

UNAMA’s 2015 report outlines the tragic toll that the country’s ongoing conflict had on Afghan civilians. The report cited 11,002 civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the year — a 4% increase in comparison to the previous year and the highest on record.

Ground engagements were the leading cause for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  Targeted and deliberate attacks by anti-government actors, such as the Taliban, were a close second. In fact, 62% of casualties in 2015 were attributed to anti-government factions. According to UNAMA, anti-government actors increasingly used suicide and complex attacks – methods which cause indiscriminate and large-scale casualties. Adding to the precarious situation are the national and international military forces, whose aerial operations resulted in an 83% increase in civilian casualties, when compared to 2014.

Of mounting concern are the number of women and child victims. These vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by conflict in Afghanistan.  The UN highlighted a 37% increase in women casualties in 2015 and a 14% increase in child casualties: one in four casualties was a child  Women human rights defenders continued to be targeted, as did women working in public spaces, including government.

Perhaps it is of little surprise that 2015 was one of the worst years for Afghanistan when it comes to civilian protection.  The temporary capture of Kunduz province by the Taliban in October, and subsequent bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital by NATO forces, exposed just how fragile a situation Afghans face.

In fact, the deliberate targeting of healthcare facilities became a worrying trend over the course of the year. UNAMA reported a 47% increase in the number of incidents targeting hospitals and healthcare personnel. This led to the closure of multiple health facilities as well as the resignation of several female healthcare practitioners who faced threats and intimidation.

Other groups were openly targeted as well. The Taliban stated that judges, prosecutors, judicial institutions, and certain journalists needed to be ‘eliminated’. The abduction and killing of minority Hazara civilians drastically increased. In one horrifying incident, seven Hazaras (including children) were beheaded. According to the UN, the Taliban further executed civilians for supposed infractions of Sharia Law through stoning, beheading, shooting, and hanging.

Escalating insecurity in urban and rural areas alike has led to widespread internal and international displacement. Diminished confidence in security and protection is one of the top factors compelling Afghans to venture to Europe and the UK in search of safe haven. According to a recent BAAG report, this often outweighs pull factors from Europe. Against this background, it is unfortunate that the UK and European refugee policies do not take into account the perilous situation of Afghan civilians, which currently shows no signs of abating.