War has devastated countless Children Afghanistan – especially girls

Sunday 8 March 2020

War has devastated countless Children Afghanistan – especially girls 

War photographer Lynsey Addario returns to Afghanistan to mark 20 years covering the conflict

Award-winning war photographer Lynsey Addario travelled across Afghanistan with Save the Children earlier this month, documenting the stories of young women and girls whose lives have been devastated war.

Her visit marks twenty years of covering the conflict in the country, which saw record numbers of child casualties in 2019 according to latest UN figures. Over 2,400 children were killed or injured, making Afghanistan the deadliest conflict for children[1].

Her images tell the stories of loss and sadness, but also the determination and resilience of her subjects surviving in one of the harshest environments to be a child. The girls she met describe losing loved ones, beatings from armed groups for attending school, and having to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Addario first travelled to the country 20 years ago to report on the lives of women under Taliban rule. On her return, she visited Kabul and Kandahar, meeting students enrolled in Save the Children’s DFID-funded girls’ education program - the Steps Towards Afghan Girls' Education Success (STAGES) project.

The photographer has covered conflict across the world for over 25 years including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Despite being kidnapped twice, she continues to report from the front lines of war. Addario has dedicated her life to telling the stories of women and girls and the impact conflict has on their lives.

11 year-old Hamida* from Ghazni province survived on just yoghurt and bread for forty days whilst her village was under siege by the Taliban. Her father was killed in front of her own eyes and was only allowed to read religious scripture and had never been to school. Hamida* is now in school in Kabul learning to read and write for the first time.

“Armed groups came at night and killed my father and my grandfather. When they killed my father, they put us in the cow barn.”

“Our [only] food was sour yogurt and bread. There was nothing else for us to eat.”

“We only attended religious studies. There was no other education available…..I am happy here because we go to school and we learn from books and I can also read and write.”

12 year-old Gomina* fled her home in Kunduz because of the fighting. She was just eight years old when armed militants stormed her city and airstrikes bombed the area. Armed groups came to her school and beat the girls and threatened their families for educating their children.

“The schools were closed by militants so they were saying: ‘Why did you let your daughters go to school?’ They hit my father so much for allowing us to go to school.I did not study in school for two years as militants were in our place so then we migrated to Kabul.”

Girls and young women continue to be marginalised in Afghanistan. A third of all girls are married before they are 18 years old, and almost 9% of those are under the age of 15. In 2018, girls’ schools were regularly targeted by militants and 80 were forced to close in the east of the country. 3.7 million children remain out of education and 60% of them are girls.[2]

Save the Children’s third annual Stop The War On Children report found record numbers of “grave violations.” In Afghanistan, these violations against children included the maiming and killing of children and attacks on schools and hospitals, following a disturbing worldwide trend that children are at the highest risk of violence in conflict zones since records began.

While many of the girls interviewed by Lynsey spoke of the situations they faced because of violations perpetrated by opposition groups, all parties to the conflict bear responsibility. In 2018, 34 per cent of all child casualties in Afghanistan were attributed to Government of Afghanistan and coalition forces.[3] International human rights law must be upheld by everyone until lasting peace is achieved throughout Afghanistan.

Jasmine Jahromi, Deputy Country Director, Save the Children Afghanistan, said:

These stories provide a stark reminder about the extent of the suffering to which millions of young women and girls have been exposed to in Afghanistan. Their voices silenced by decades of conflict, enduring unimaginable cruelty and being denied their basic human rights.”

“After more than 18 years of the most recent chapter of violence, now every single child born and raised in Afghanistan has experienced war and conflict in their country. Imagine living in daily fear of explosions, missing school because it’s too unsafe and not knowing if your parents or siblings will make it home. This is the reality for millions of children.”

Today’s conflicts are becoming more dangerous for children and yet the world stands by as their universal rights are disregarded with impunity. If the UK is serious about being a ‘global force for good’ it must help stop this war on children."

The photographer’s work will be released to mark International Women’s Day in collaboration with two other female photographers Alessandra Sanguinetti and Esther Mbabazi who covered the conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo and Gaza respectively. The body of work aims to highlight the unique experience of young women and girls in conflict zones around the world