Save the Children staff killed in terror attack

Association

On the morning of 24th January 2018, four members of staff from the international NGO Save the Children were killed in a suicide attack and siege of their building in the city of Jalalabad by so-called Islamic State (Da'esh) militants. Four others were injured in the attack and are receiving medical treatment. Some 46 people in the building, many of whom hid in a safe room, were rescued.

In a statement in response to the attack the organisation stated:

"Save the Children condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms. We are shocked and appalled at the violence, carried out against our staff in Afghanistan who are dedicated humanitarians, committed to improving the lives and wellbeing of millions of children across the country…Attacks against aid workers must never be tolerated and have a direct impact on the children we work to protect."

Afghanistan is one of the world's most dangerous countries for aid workers, who are under constant threat of attack by insurgents. Such attacks have become much more common in recent years. Among the most recent incidents include the following:

  • On 11th September 2017, ICRC physiotherapist Lorena Enerbral Parez working at their rehabilitation center in Mazar-i-Sharif was shot by a young man who was being treated for polio.
  • On 9th September 2017, group of armed men murdered an Afghan man working for an non-governmental organization (NGO) in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar. He had been working for AREA, an Afghan de-mining NGO.
  • In August 2017, three Afghan aid workers employed by Catholic Relief Services were gunned down and killed near the capital city of Ghor province. Two other employees were also wounded in the incident.

Expression

As noted previously by the CIVICUS Monitor, Afghanistan continues to be a dangerous place for journalists and media workers. According to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), 2017 was one of the bloodiest years for journalists and media workers in Afghanistan’s history. The organisation recorded a total of 169 cases of violence and threats against them with at least 20 cases of killings. Female journalists were the target in at least 12 incidents. At least 51 percent of cases were perpetrated by armed groups, with the so-called Islamic State (also sometimes referred to as Da'esh) and the Taliban responsible for all the killings. Government workers were responsible for 34 percent of the violence and intimidation against journalists.

similar pattern continued in 2018. On 21st January there was an attack on a vehicle belonging to two TV journalists in the eastern province of Nangarhar, killing the driver. One the same day there was an arson attack on a radio station in the west-central province of Ghor.

Peaceful Assembly

On 15th January 2018, lawmakers dismissed a controversial law on public gatherings, strikes and demonstrations, arguing that it contravened the Constitution and democratic values. The draft law led to a strong reaction from civil society, when it was leaked in July 2017, who believed it seriously restricted the right to peaceful assembly. In a joint statement they stated that:

“Most of the articles [of the law] limit the civic space, civic engagement, and the exercise of political rights. A deeper look at the laws easily shows that the law is designed to end the political participation of citizens and push back citizens from civic engagement."

The authorities have yet to make public the findings of an investigation into a crackdown by security forces, on a protest held on 2nd June 2017 in central Kabul, that left seven dead. The protest had been organised by civil society groups, political activists, and relatives of victims of the 31st May truck bomb attack to protest deteriorating security conditions. There were reports that a minority of protesters used violence including throwing stones at the police.