For anyone who follows events in Afghanistan even casually, it is not news that children there are suffering tremendously. Most obviously, there has been an horrific toll of children killed directly by the war. According to one tally, last year US/NATO airstrikes alone killed more children than the Taliban and other insurgents did in all their attacks (131 vs. 128).
But the challenges for children go beyond the direct horrors of war. "The world is ignoring the daily deaths of more than 850 Afghan children from treatable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, focusing on fighting the insurgency," according to British charity Save the Children. Afghan children have the world’s worst chance of seeing their fifth birthday and yet Canada, along with other belligerent countries, is spending a mere pittance on aid for that country while the military sucks in billions of dollars.
And who can forget the scandalous 2008 accusation by Canadian Forces padre Jean Johns who revealed that Canadian soldiers were ordered by commanding officers to look the other way as allied Afghan soldiers engaged in "bacha bazi" ("boy play"). Her accusations were later echoed by other soldiers. The Canadian Forces NIS is likely still investigating the allegations.
Interpress Service’s Gareth Porter has more on the hazards facing Afghan children:
Two-Thirds of Boys in Afghan Jails Are Brutalised, Study Finds
WASHINGTON, Mar 30 (IPS) – Nearly two of every three male juveniles arrested in Afghanistan are physically abused, according to a study based on interviews with 40 percent of all those now incarcerated in the country’s juvenile justice system.
The study [was] carried out by U.S. defence attorney Kimberly Motley for the international children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes…
Those statistics parallel the findings of a study published by the U.N. Children’s Fund and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in 2008, which found that 55 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls reported having been beaten upon their arrest.
Virtually all the male juveniles said the police beatings were aimed at forcing them to sign a confession. They said they had signed either while being beaten or threatened with being beaten, and that the confessions were then used to convict them.
The testimony of the juveniles themselves on brutalisation by police was consistent with Motley’s interviews with juvenile court judges. Forty-four percent of the judges interviewed indicated that juveniles complained routinely about torture and physical abuse by police officers. Another 33 percent refused to answer when asked whether they had heard such complaints…
Almost half the children brought before a court in Afghanistan are also denied the right to speak in their defence, according to Motley’s study…
One of the male juveniles denied the right to testify in court was a boy charged with pederasty, or sexual relations between an adult male and a child. As is often the case, he was the victim of rape, after having been kidnapped by three adults, all of whom were released and never charged… (link)
It is worth noting that officers from the Correctional Service of Canada have been in Afghanistan for several years instructing their Afghan cohorts as well as inspecting correctional facilities there. Of course, we don’t know if CSC ever found evidence of the crimes which both Motley and Porter rather easily discovered. While it might at first seem difficult to believe that Canadian officials would be hypocritical on issues of sexual morality, cynical readers might simply interject that recent Ministers of Public Safety (responsible for CSC) have included the morally challenged Stockwell Day and Vic Toews.
Related blog posts:
(September 2007) Al Jazeera: "Even Afghanistan’s formal justice system does not clearly define rape as a separate crime, including it under the offence of "zina" or adultery, pederasty and violation of honour."
(August 2008) Afghan government representatives commit child rape, says Afghan human rights organization.