Even as UN statistics show that civilian casualties have reduced for the first time in the period of six years. This is heartening news surely. But the sad part is that targeted killings of Afghan women and government employees are on the rise. The report detailed that 2,754 Afghan civilians were killed in 2012 which is a drop of 12% over the last year’s figures. Improvised Explosive devices (IEDs) were responsible for most of the killings almost 81%. Most of the civilians targeted are those that speak in favor of peace. So tribal leaders, government functionaries, religious leaders who are talking about human rights, rights of women and those who oppose Taliban’s radical views are specifically targeted.
Most Afghan women were killed while working at home or in the fields or in other words going about their daily routine. Taliban openly issues threats to women who go out to study or work. Children are also targeted while on their way to school. Most of these deaths are due to militant action. Roadside bombings and use of suicide bombers tragically cost a lot of lives. IEDs are widely used in thickly-populated areas such as bazaars or schools with devastating impact. Afghan forces and NATO forces have been doing a better job at curtailing these attacks but there is a long way to go. Most of the women injured lose out on work and studies. This has a demoralizing effect not only on that particular woman and her family but the society at large.
Pro-government forces accounted for 8 percent of civilian deaths and injuries. These are mostly NATO, Afghan security forces and government-backed militias. This number is a drop of 46% from 2011.
Some of the civilians feel resentful of the fact that the Karzai government in its bid to offer a hand of peace to Taliban and other militias may be going soft on them and their activities thus emboldening them. Last year, Afghanistan’s top religious council, the Ulema council, issued directives for the conduct of women including non mixing of men and women at work and in schools. These guidelines reiterate that a woman must not travel without a male escort. The most rankling part of it was the backing of President Karzai for these guidelines.
Most women have openly expressed reservations about these guidelines and hope that they will not be taken seriously. Life for Afghan women hangs on tenterhooks as Afghanistan steps into a new phase with the departure of NATO forces in December 2014. Will their lot improve or get worse? Only time will tell.