Afghan Crisis and Child Rights
Author: Piyush Kumar
I Year | Faculty of Law, New Delhi
Afghan Crisis has put child rights under a significant threat. A report published by UNICEF identifies Afghanistan as the worst place to be born in the world. Indeed, the people there are subject to extreme poverty and violence on a daily basis. Their situation is critical. Child mortality, sexual abuse, malnutrition and forced child marriages are rampant.
The harrowing situation in Afghanistan, or the Afghan Crisis, has again hit the children. Children are often considered collateral damage whenever superpowers interfere in one’s regime. The number of children used as terrorists in Afghanistan has been surging each year.
Historically, political and religious groups around the world have used children for fighting but now terror groups such as the Taliban, among others, are using children as suicide bombers, fighters and spies. In some parts of Afghanistan, parents send their children to madrassas where the recruiters prey upon the children for propagating their agenda.
It becomes imperative to stop such forces from recruiting children in accelerating their propaganda. This article discusses the Taliban Regime, factors which propel the recruitment of children in terror groups and some recommendations to combat this serious issue.
The Taliban Regime:
Under the Taliban regime, thousands of afghans under the age of 18 years were enrolled in terrorist groups, in one way or another. They were first brainwashed and then given training on the handling of weapons and finally sent to war. Certain children, barely 6 years of age, were even used as child suicide bombers. Research by Human Rights Watch further shows that the Taliban have been training and deploying children for various military operations, including the production and planting of improvised explosives devices.
In 2011, Afghanistan signed an agreement with the United Nations to stop the recruitment of children into the national police. Thus, it was an extraordinary deal to end the death of children on the battlefield. This marked the end of an era of child soldiers in the Afghan Crisis and also helped already traumatized ex-combatants to reintegrate into civilian life.
Factors working in the Afghan Crisis:
The reasons for a child becoming a soldier can be broadly divided into the following subheads:
Social and familial factors:
Children become easy targets for recruiters because it is easier to radicalize them, so also because of their readiness to accept the authority of adult terrorists. Radicalization may involve various ways like showing videotapes which are against the dignity of a nation, which makes a child terrorize easily and choose the opponents as desired by the recruiters. This combination of religious and paternal authority makes radicalization inevitable.
This includes a multitude of factors which leads to radicalizing of children and young adults. These may be some cultural practices. Hindering working of women shifts the responsibility on all males, including children to earn. Sometimes, children are forced to earn their livelihood because of peculiar family conditions also.
The problem is acute in immigrant families for whom economic desperation gets coupled with anxiety over citizenship status. Hence, when faced with desperate socio-economic conditions, children and their families see no better future for themselves than the so-called martyrdom.
The strategic decision by terrorists:
No doubt the government has failed to put a check on the recruitment process at the village level. The blame is on the Ministers as much as it is on the security forces. Terrorist groups such as the Taliban make extensive use of children as soldiers. Many western powers restrain from using combat forces against children. This strategy helps them be less targeted by the enemy.
Recruitment at the border region of Pakistan:
Taliban often operates from the border region of Pakistan, giving the youth a promise of freeing them from economic and educational barriers arising out of the region’s crippling poverty. This often throws them into indoctrination.
Recommendations to tackle the Afghan Crisis:
The following recommendations might be helpful in reducing the exploitation of children in warfare:
- Reducing reliance on the military as a sole executor of political change – a shift from military expenditure to funding international aid programs and NGOs exercising in child welfare and education program.
- Disincentivize international institutions from supporting organizations that recruit child soldiers. The UN can help by imposing sanctions and economic barriers on states that support organizations that use children as soldiers.
- Changing the current educational landscape – Funding the Afghan educational institutions and revamping the current system of education machinery in the country can help neutralize the impact of madrassas acting as a recruitment centre.
- Strengthening civil society with the help of other nations and working in close sync with various tribal and ethnic communities living together.
- Fast-tracking economic and infrastructural development as these children are more often joining these camps to receive better economic incentives provided by their recruiters than the State.
- Ending corruption as it destroys rule of law and prevents societies to develop freely.
- Pursuing disarmament, de-radicalization and reintegration programs by UN bodies such as UNICEF. This can help bring the children back to mainstream society. Active participation by elders and tribal societies can help reintegrate into communities that they had lost.
Afghanistan has experienced unimaginable miseries of a long-standing conflict. Everyone has suffered. But the nature of suffering is different for children. They are among the vulnerable sections of society as well as the future of a nation. Due to various socio-economic and religious factors, children become the victim of exploitation which sometimes, proves to be fatal.
Policymakers have to be careful because there is no universal solution to this. Children need viable opportunities to develop into responsible citizens. Afghanistan has to become a viable state first in order to mitigate the abuse of the rights of her children.
 Austin Ludoph, Special Report on Child Terrorists and Violent Extremism in Afghanistan, 13 2018 https://www.risetopeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Special-Report-04252.pdf
 Patricia Gossman, Afghanistan: Taliban child soldier recruitment surges, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Sept. 14th, 2021, 11:10 AM), https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/17/afghanistan-taliban-child-soldier-recruitment-surges
 HUMANIUM, https://www.humanium.org/en/afghanistan/#:~:text=Realizing%20Children’s%20Rights%20in%20Afghanistan,violence%20on%20a%20daily%20basis. (Sept. 10, 2021, 12:34AM )
Editor: Kusumita Banerjee