Over 13,000 Afghans forced to flee Taliban, Daesh battle

Members of an Afghan family who fled their village in Nangarhar province at their temporary home in Jalalabad. (AP)
Updated 12 June 2019
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Over 13,000 Afghans forced to flee Taliban, Daesh battle

  • Displaced people await aid from the government
  • Daesh has frequently been met with resistance from locals, due to its extremist conduct

KABUL: Hundreds of Afghan families have been forced to leave their villages because of fighting between the Taliban and affiliates of Daesh in eastern Nangarhar province in recent weeks, officials said on Wednesday.

The fighting concentrated in the Shinwari and Khoghani districts of the province, which borders Pakistan, and has served as a bastion for Daesh loyalists since the group emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014.

Most of the displaced, including children and the elderly, have ended up in the desert, where they face soaring heat, lack of water, shelter and food, Aryan Youn, a local delegate, told Arab News.

“These people have suffered casualties and now live in miserable conditions. It is nearly 50 degrees there. A few families have received aid from locals and traders, but the government has not provided any aid for them yet because of bureaucracy,” she said.

Fighting in Nangarhar broke out days before the holy month of Ramadan after Daesh tried to take control of Taliban territory.

Najibullah Qayoumi, head of the provincial department for refugees, said the government has provided aid to some of those displaced and confirmed that families have settled in the desert.

He told Arab News the number of displaced was over 13,000.

“The fighting erupted in one area and then spread to other parts, so like many other people we had to flee,” Tawakal Shah, a displaced resident, said.

FASTFACT

The terrorist organization wanted to gain control of Taliban strongholds in Nangahar province.

Shah Mahmood Miakhel, governor of Nangarhar, told Arab News both Daesh and the Taliban were enemies of the government and that it has used airstrikes against both groups. He added that Daesh had filled the vacuum created after a government airstrike wiped out a number of Taliban leaders in April.

The governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, refused to be drawn on whether Afghan forces would be deployed against the two groups. He also refused to answer questions on how the organizations had gained such a foothold in the region, after a series of prolonged operations against them by the US and Afghan soldiers. Washington famously dropped the world’s largest bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of all Bombs” (MOAB) on militants in 2017.

Daesh has frequently been met with resistance from locals, due to its extremist conduct, including forcefully marrying young girls and killing community elders in brutal ways. 

Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, said the spread of Daesh’s activities in Afghanistan had “raised lots of questions and suspicions not only among ordinary Afghans, but the Taliban too.

“One reason why the Taliban are hesitant about talks (with the US) is that they think America is bringing Daesh to Afghanistan. The Taliban have openly said that America is aiding Daesh here,” he said.

US officials have repeatedly rejected as baseless accusations raised by Iran, Russia and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Washington is helping Daesh in Afghanistan to destabilize the region.

Some 1.4 million Afghans have been internally displaced due to the conflict, as well as natural disasters, in the last 18 years.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 22 min 23 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”