Many war widows in Farah forced into begging
FARAH CITY (Pajhwok): War widows in western Farah province are mired in penury, with some forced to beg on roads and streets.The exact number of such women is not clear, but it runs into thousands.
They can be seen on roads, in streets, mosques and other areas. Farah residents say that most of the begging women have lost their husbands to the conflict over the past three decades, particularly during the last 14 years.
Razia, 18, is one of the widows from the Kansak village from the provincial capital.Begging in the Shuhada Square of Farah City, she told Pajhwok Afghan News her husband -- a farmer -- was killed during a clash between Afghan forces and Taliban three years ago.
Her spouse and father-in-law were killed when a rocket hit their house during the clash. Razia’s brothers-in-lawtook taking care of her and her four children for one yearafter the incident.
“My elder brother-in-law then asked me to marry him or leave his home. I rejected the proposal and came to Farah City along with my 13 years old son and two daughters. Here we live in an old house of our relatives.”
Razia has no option other than begging to feed her children. “My children are scavengers, rummaging through heaps of garbage. We are in deep trouble.I want my children to attend school, but I can do anything by begging to protect my family, people do not help us, if my children do not work we would have nothing to eat.”
Gul Pari, 33, another widow from the Khushkaba village of Khak-i-Safid district, has also been displaced to Farah City. Her four minor daughters and a son are living in a tent.
While begging with her two daughters in Sharwali Square of Farah City, she admitted: “Most of our men supportthe Taliban. My husband, also a Taliban insurgent, was killed during a clash in Bala Balok district two years ago.”
She spent one year with her brothers-in-law after her spouse’s death. But she moved to Farah City after both her two brothers-in-laws were also killed in a gunbattle.“My father-in-law is old and cannot work. People don’t help us as there are too many women like me.
“I’m really ashamed of begging, but I have no choice. If I don’t beg what would my children eat?” she asked. She takes her children with herself to make people show her mercy.
Sharafudin Ashrafi, a resident of the Khost village of Khak-i-Safid district, confirmed a large number of widows in Farah had been forced into seeking alms.
Around 500 women had been widowed by war only in Khost village, he said, adding most of them were from Taliban families. Others are wives of slain police officials.
“Wars take lives of the poor. Woman arewidowed and children orphaned,” Ashrafi remarked, saying relatives could not help so many war-affected households in their area. Most of them have come to Farah City, living in tents. Their children are deprived of education.
Acting Director of Women Affairs Shah Gul Sadidexpressed concern over the growing number women and children hit by war.
She said the exact number of homeless or widowed women in Farah was not known, But thousands of women have lost their husbands during clashes in Farah province, according to her.
“Most of the widows themselves take care of their families, because the government and relatives did not pay attention to them,” she added.
Baryalai Ghafari, head of Farah Civil Society Institutions Association, said most of the women in Khak-i-Safid, Bala Balok, Pushtrod, Gulistan and Bakwa` districts, where security is precarious, had lost their husbands.
He said more than a hundred women were widowed only in the Barangak village of Pushtrod district. The plight of such women remains one of biggest challenges for the Afghan society, but the government and other organisations have done little to deal with it effectively.
The government had altogether ignored the families of insurgents as if they were not human beings, Ghafari alleged. Hundreds of widowed women of Afghan security personnel in Farah Cityare haunted by poverty.
Asadullah Naibi, a social worker in Farah City, called the high number of the homeless a grave crisis that needed urgent attention of the quarters concerned. He described the widowsand orphans as the ‘hidden pain of society’.
He expressed concern at the rising number of the war-affected families and their resort to begging. “Our society is smouldering, but no one cares about ending this human disaster. We should work hard to end the war.”
Religious scholars should highlight the importance of support to widows and orphans and the government should launch a survey to ascertain the number of such individuals, he opined, stressing the need for reaching out to the vulnerable section of society.
Director of Martyrs and People with Disabilities Abdul Qayyum Laliconfirmed the government’s inability to addressthe problems of war-hit families.He said 1,747 civilian and 514 security forces’ families had been affected by war in Farah over the past six years.
His department distributes 5,000 afghanis to each civilian family and 8,250 afghanis to each household of security forces per month.Lali complained about a shortage of resources to help widows and orphans.
He acknowledged war-affected families of insurgents were not paid any attention. Assistance provided by his department could not meet the needs of affected households.
He asked aid organisations to help orphan and widows in Farah.According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 500,000 women have been widowed by war and almost all of them are living in poverty.
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