Archive for July 2006
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
KABUL, 30 Jul 2006 (IRIN) – At least one person is dead and 12 injured after an earthquake jolted Afghanistan’s northern province of Kunduz early on Saturday, officials say.
“The tremor happened at 4:40 am, which killed an elderly woman and injured 12 other residents of Kowtar Mah village in Imam Sahib district,” Abdur Rahim Zarin, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), told IRIN in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“The wounded, which also include children, were rushed to the main hospital in Kunduz city,” Zarin said.
The quake destroyed or partially damaged at least 50 houses, affecting more than 180 families, said local authorities
According to Pakistan’s Seismic Centre, the quake measured 5.2 on the Richter scale and was centred inside Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan’s Kunduz province.
Residents of Imam Sahib district complained that they had not received humanitarian aid.
“Many of our villagers are in very bad conditions and did not receive any assistance from the government and other aid agencies yet,” Said Zameen, 46, a resident of Kowtar Mah, said.
Mohammad Fareed, head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) in Kunduz, said help was on its way.
“Our team has completed its assessment in the area and we will soon begin aid delivery to all quake-affected families.”
The last major quake to strike Afghanistan alone was in March 2002 in the northeastern province of Badakhshan. It killed nearly 2,000 people.
Afghanistan also felt the quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale that hit northern India and Pakistan on 8 October 2005 killing more than 75,000 people and leaving more than 3.5 million homeless.
LONDON, July 22 (UPI) — Afghanistan is “close to anarchy” and Western military forces are “running out of time,” the head of NATO’s international security force in that country says.
Lt. Gen. David Richards, the British NATO commander who takes over responsibility for southern Afghanistan in 10 days, said Afghan fighting was more severe than NATO expected and feuding foreign agencies were compounding problems caused by local corruption, the Guardian reported Saturday.
“The situation is close to anarchy,” he told a conference at Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London Friday. He referred in particular to what he called “the lack of unity between different agencies.”
NATO’s forces were also short of equipment, notably aircraft, but also of medical evacuation systems and life-saving equipment, he said.
Officials said later France and Turkey had sent troops to the Afghan capital of Kabul without the support of helicopters.
Richards said NATO “could not afford not to succeed” in bringing long-term stability to Afghanistan and building up its national army and security forces. He described the mission as a watershed for NATO, taking on “land combat operations for the first time in its history.”
Afghanistan’s Creditors Write Off $10 Billion
via Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
July 22, 2006 — Afghanistan’s major creditors have canceled $10.4 billion in debt, a further major reduction in the country’s debt to the so-called Paris Club.
The U.S. State Department said on July 21 that the agreement means that 92 percent of Afghanistan’s total debt to the three Paris Club creditors — Germany, Russia and the United States — has now been written off.
KABUL, July 22 (Pajhwok Afghan News): With an investment of $140 million, the third private cell-phone company launched its services in Kabul and three other cities on Saturday.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, president of Areeba – the cell-phone company – said purchase price for the company’s sim card had been set at 750 afghanis. Per minute charges for a call is said to be 5.5 afghanis.
He said the consumers would be charged as per duration of the call. Even 30 seconds would be counted and the consumers would have to pay only for as much air time as the duration of their call, he explained.
Besides Kabul, he said Areeba had launched its service in three big cities, including Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Jalalabad. Its service would soon be extended to other cities as well.
The credit cards would be available for 150, 250, 500, 1,500 and 4,000 afghanis. He said some 800 offices had been established to sell the credit cards. Besides, Syria, Ghana, Cyprus and Sudan, the company is providing services in five other countries.
Speaking on the occasion, Communication Minister Amirzai Sangin said they hoped the company would extend its operation to other cities and villages soon. He informed another company in the name of Etisalat would also start operation soon. Two mobile phone companies, Roshan, and AWCC are presently operating in the country.
KABUL, July 22 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan’s major creditors have written off $10.4 billion in debt, a further major reduction in the country’s debt in the Paris Club, finance ministry spokesman said on Saturday.
Aziz Shams told Pajhwok Afghan News Russia canceled its debt what it said was $10.5 billion. US had $108 million and Germany 40 million debt on Afghanistan. Paris club played a mediator role between in-debt and creditor countries. The U.S. State Department said on July 21 that the agreement means that 92 percent of Afghanistan’s total debt to the three Paris Club creditors — Germany, Russia and the United States has now been written off.
Finance Minister Anwarulhaq had attended the Paris Club, he added. He said besides discussing major creditors of the Paris club US, Russia and Germany the attendants discussed on canceling the debts provided by World Bank, Asian Bank in the last four years, but he said this discussion did get finalized. Afghanistan had received over 600 million US dollar as debt from different donor, he contended. Shams said Russia had claimed it had $10.5 billion payable debt on Afghanistan while the documents in hand with the Afghanistan government show the Russian debt was only $9.5 billion dollar.
Russian government is asking for payment of debts while Afghan people are calling them as inheritors of Former Soviet Union and demanded Russians to pay compensation for the devastation this country inflicted in Afghanistan during its invasion on central Asian country.
During the one decade occupation of the country by former Soviet Union Afghanistan changed to a ruin, over 1.5 million people were martyred, hundred thousands were maimed and millions of others were forced to get displaced and migrate to abroad.
NATO chief Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
July 21, 2006
by Lorne Cook
TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan (AFP) – NATO chief Jaap De Hoop Scheffer flew to Afghanistan’s restive southern Uruzgan province to assess the latest phase of the alliance’s efforts to build stability here.
“I am quite impressed with the amount of building that has already happened,” De Hoop Scheffer said at Tirin Kot military base, home to Dutch and — by August — Australian soldiers, as wind flayed a group of reporters.
Within seconds, members of his entourage, security personnel and journalists alike were hacking and coughing as they fell victim to the flour-fine sand that is the enemy of both man and machine on this barren stretch of land.
“It’s like any construction site, just multiply the dust by about 10,” said Captain Jennifer Egan, sent to this base about a month ago to smooth the way for the estimated 350 Australian troops expected to arrive.
The base is still being built but Egan said the aim would be to quickly move out and, with the help of local nongovernmental organisations, push forward bridge, road and school construction projects.
“We’re training the community, getting the locals to help themselves,” she said, adding that her compatriots would be adapting methods already used at home to teach aboriginal communities how to build for themselves.
“Our work is more about pushing the effort out there,” she said pointing across a line of blast sandbags to a row of mud walls that mark the edge of the township of Tirin Kot.
As De Hoop Scheffer has already made clear since he arrived in Afghanistan late Wednesday, security is only one part of the equation and he has expressed concern that the international community might be about to drop the ball.
NATO relies on the United Nations, European Union and others, as well as the Afghan government, to help ensure that development goes ahead beyond just contributing troops.
And once the backing of the Afghan people has been won, alliance officials hope that this newfound prosperity will in turn bring more stability.
After a period of tension with the previous drug-linked governor of Uruzgan, home to an estimated 300,000 people, military officers in Tirin Kot said they had been able to work well with new governor Abdul Hakim Monid.
The Tirin Kot base is one of a number of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) through which NATO is trying to win the support of Afghans as it expands into the volatile south, a move likely to be completed by July 31.
In an air-conditioned oasis across the camp, Dutch Captain Ad Orelemans showed off a new armoured hospital, still under construction, which will be used to treat the estimated 800 troops here plus Afghan security forces.
“What we have to deal with is the dust,” he told reporters. “We have worked in Iraq and Eritrea, so I think we learned the lessons.”
With four small “wards”, the hospital will eventually have a functioning bloodbank, surgery, physiotherapy area and a dentist.
Finding out just how many troops have been hurt here so far has not been easy. Officers tend to sidestep security questions, although Taliban fighters, drug runners and criminals and known to be active in the region.
“Sometimes you see things way out, about a dozen kilometres or so. You will see a flash, you hear it, but that’s all,” said Private Harian Speloe, on guard duty and just two weeks away from the end of a four-month tour.
Before Dutchman De Hoop Scheffer flew out of this camp run by The Netherlands he congratulated senior officers including those from the US military which is running the PRT until August.
“The sooner we can get this finished the better and then we will be able to hand it to the Afghans,” he said.
BBC News / Thursday, 20 July 2006
A US-led bombing raid in southern Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, an Afghan government inquiry has found.
Presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi told the BBC that 27 other civilians had been hurt in last week’s attack on a village in Uruzgan province.
He said about 50 Taleban fighters had been killed. Many of the dead civilians were women and children, he said.
President Hamid Karzai has regularly urged US-led forces to be more careful when carrying out air strikes.
Civilians have been killed in a number of coalition bombing raids since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary says this latest incident puts President Hamid Karzai in a difficult position because his repeated calls for the coalition to take greater care appear to have had little effect.
Mr Karzai ordered the investigation a week ago when the claims of civilian casualties in the attack near Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province first surfaced.
His spokesman said the special commission had concluded that three houses in the village had been destroyed in the bombing.
One belonged to a local man, called Sher Jan, in whose house Taleban members are said to have been meeting at the time of the air attack.
Coalition forces are thought to have acted on this intelligence in launching the bombing raid.
Mr Rahimi said: “The house (of Sher Jan) was bombed by coalition forces. About 50 Taleban were killed, including nine commanders.
“Unfortunately, 10 civilians were killed. Twenty-seven other people were injured, among them children and elderly men and women.
“The president has always said civilian casualties should be prevented and has been urging coalition forces to be careful.”
The commission had recommended that coalition forces should co-operate closely with Afghan forces, Mr Rahimi said.
It was also urging Afghans not to let the Taleban use their houses, mosques or shrines “for terrorist activities”, he added.
Mr Karzai has ordered another investigation after British forces called in US air support after fighting off a sustained attack on a local government compound they were defending in the village of Nawzad.
They said there was no evidence that civilians had been killed, and the bombing raids were necessary because of the severity of the fighting with the Taleban.
Despite a ban on corporal punishment, schoolteachers in Herat insist on beating knowledge into their charges.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
By Sadeq Behnam and Sudabah Afzali in Herat (ARR No. 223, 20-Jul-06)
Nine-year-old Mahbuba has been beaten so many times by her teacher that she is afraid to go back to school.
Showing her bruised hands, she said, “Our teacher is a very bad person. My hands have gone black because of the beatings. I hate my teacher and school.”
Mahbuba’s father Nurullah, who lives in the western Afghan province of Herat, is sympathetic to her plight – and he is furious with the school.
“I send my child to school so that she’ll learn something, not for her to be beaten by vicious teachers,” he said, adding that he has already had to take Mahbuba to a nearby hospital to have her hands treated.
Nurullah warned that if the teacher beat his daughter again, he will beat up the teacher and – as many parents have done already – withdraw the child from school.
The head of Herat’s provincial education department, Mohammaduddin Fahim, said beating and other forms of ill-treatment were against the country’s education law, and any teacher found to be doing so would face legal sanctions.
Fahim said his department had sent out letters to all the schools in the province ordering them to put a stop to corporal punishment.
“This problem is mostly caused by high school graduates who have become schoolteachers,” he said. “We have launched training courses for teachers across the province in order to eliminate violence against children. In addition, a delegation from the provincial education department inspects schools every month.”
Mohammad Muhsen Ismailzada, who represents the Afghan education ministry in Herat, confirmed that physical punishments are not legal, “Teachers have no right to use violence against school kids. If a pupil does anything wrong, the teacher should not react in haste, but find a way to resolve the problem.”
Teachers in the province – where at least half a million children, two-fifths of them girls, attend about 600 schools – remain unrepentant about using violence, and openly hostile to instructions telling them to change.
“In my experience, unless pupils are beaten they will not be corrected,” said Abdul Karim, a headmaster in the Pashtunzarghun district. “We don’t accept the ministry’s letter saying teachers don’t have the right to beat students. Pupils should be told that teachers do have the right to beat them. They have begun disobeying teachers since the letter was sent out to schools.”
Khowaja Mohammad Nadir Seddiqi, the head of the teachers union in western Herat province, argued that since Afghan children had grown up surrounded with violence, they would not study unless they were beaten.
He had a simple message for his colleagues, “Teachers should use canes to beat their pupils, so that they fear them.”
Saifuddin Maulawizada, a teacher in the Guzra district, described how he regularly beats his charges by tying up by their feet and beating them on the soles with a stick.
“If I don’t have a stick with me, I can’t teach because the pupils don’t listen to me and they disrupt the lesson,” said Maulawizada.
Psychologists and human rights activists in Herat are concerned that violence against children has serious long-term consequences.
“In foreign countries, beating and threatening children is regarded as a crime for which the perpetrator is punished, whereas in our country, children are punished for very minor things,” said Abdul Salam Hikmati, a member of the psychologists’ association in Herat. “This results in the child becoming alienated from society.”
Rahima Halimi, who heads the children’s rights section of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission’s Herat branch, said, “Violence against children is widespread both in the home and at school, and has a negative impact on children’s minds. We have voiced the problem several times to the officials concerned, but no measures have been taken.”
Apart from banning schools from administering physical punishment, Ismailzada said education officials are planning other steps to bring about change.
“Students’ councils will soon be established in schools so that pupils will have a right to voice their problems. Parents’ associations will also be set up shortly. If students do anything wrong, the problem will be resolved with their families rather than by beating them,” he said.
Until these changes happen, pupils like Masooma, 11, will go to school only as long as their parents make them.
“Our teacher beats me until blood comes out of my nails,” she said. “I am not an animal. I go to school to study, not to be beaten.
“I don’t want to go to school, but my parents force me to.”
Sadeq Behnam and Sudabah Afzali are IWPR contributors in Hera