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Ethnic discrimination impedes Afghanistan’s stability

Ethnic discrimination impedes Afghanistan’s stability

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Mar 27, 2019 - 09:37

KABUL (Pajhwok): Twenty-five percent of Afghans are victims of ethnic, linguistic and religious discrimination while 14 percent are faced with negative consequences of the practice, says a study.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) conducted the research study titled “Evaluation of Average Implementation of the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”.

Findings of the study, conducted in the outgoing solar year, were released on Tuesday. The commission polled 3,498 persons of all ethnic groups in 29 provinces through questioners on ethnic discrimination.

In addition to the distribution of questionnaires, members of the panel held 14 meetings with intellectuals, civil society activists and rights activists in 14 provinces of the country to get their views on the issue.

Racial discrimination:

According to the report, racial discrimination is prohibited under international law, Afghanistan’s constitution and other statutes. Perpetrators of racial discrimination shall be punished under the country’s criminal law. In Afghanistan, racism is seen as a challenge to security and stability.

One of the questions was about being treated as a social outcast on the basis of ethnic, religious or linguistic affiliations. The research shows 25 percent of respondents acknowledged being harassed ue to their ethnic, linguistic or religious backgrounds.

Detailed questions were asked to get full accounts of racial discrimination in Afghanistan. Such discrimination has been divided into three categories -- ethnicity, religion and language. Answers were evaluated on th basis of composition of the population.

Ethnic discrimination

The study calls differences between ethnic groups in Afghanistan one of the main sources of racial discrimination. People often suffer because of the negative practice.

According to the study, ethnic discord has been a key factor behind civil war and violence. All important national events are shaped on the basis of ethnic interests, it adds.

Ethnic differences forced residents to forge affiliations with different groups and enforce their political agenda based on such considerations.

The study credits the Afghan government with trying to eradicate ethnic prejudices and strengthen national unity. It thwarted discrimination in line with Article 22 of the Constitution and Articles 218, 256, 409 and 870 of Afghanistan’s Penal Code.

But the study reveals ethic discrimination remains visible in political activities and implementation of development projects. The commission says 52 percent of government servants, 10 percent of NGO workers and 38 percent of common people commit ethnic discrimination.

Religious discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of religion or sects has been one of the main factors behind differences. This form of bigotry has been perceived as a challenge to national unity in the history of Afghanistan. 

It says: “In the past, the people of Afghanistan were deprived of their basic rights and freedom of expression, such as during the Taliban regime. Followers of other different sects -- Shia, Ismaelia, Jafaria, etc -- faced challenges. The situation, however, changed during the post-Taliban era when sectarianism declined and national unity was strengthened.”

Linguistic discrimination

The report indicates 69 percent of high-ranking government officers and 31 percent of low-level employees are involved in linguistic discrimination.

The findings show a number of people still complain of the violations of their rights and ethnic discrimination despite governmental assurances to address these issues.

Consequences of discrimination

The chart above in nine parts show the percentage of people who each said they faced a type of negative consequences of discrimination. The rest of the interviewees in each part said they did not face the consequences of discrimination or refused to respond to the question.

 

Violation of the right to participation in elections

The study show 6.5 percent of the interviewees said they were deprived of participation in elections on tribal, religious and linguistic lines.

These interviewees claimed they were victims of ethnic discrimination during elections and were deprived from elections by powerful figures who wanted to defeat their rivals.

Some of the respondents said they did not participate in the polls because they had to vote for a candidate not of their choice.

Eight percent of the respondents said they faced ethnic discrimination in employment, 14 percent said they were fired from jobs due to ethnic discrimination, more than 18 percent said they were deprived of rank promotion in their jobs due to their ethnic, religious and language connections.

More than 24 percent of the interviewees said they were deprived of financial privileges in their jobs due to ethnic discrimination, 7.8 percent said they endured ethnic discrimination while processing their cases in the judicial organs, more than eight percent said they faced prejudice in availing the right of ownership and business.

The respondents said there were cases in which their properties were taken from them or grabbed from them forcibly and illegally without their satisfaction.

The survey shows 11.5 percent of people complain about lack of their access to health services and nearly 12 percent faced discrimination in areas of education and higher education.

More than 10 percent of the respondents said they were not given the right to participate in cultural and religious events due to ethnic discrimination, more than 44 percent said they knew people who promotes ethnic discrimination through public events, media and social media.

Discrimination in ID card distribution

The study reveals that Jogis, a small number of people migrated to Afghanistan from Tajikistan in the past generations ago, are still unable to take their identity cards.

The report said the Afghan government was still unable to satisfy people regarding development programs on national level.

“Respondents of the interview believe the government’s development programs are discriminatory and the national budget spending is not a transparent process and instead based on ethnic, religious, language and regional aspects and without considering the requirements of regions and people,” the report says.

The study shows only one case was followed and that was related to the deputy head of Oversight and Assessment Office of the Administrative Office of the Presidential Palace, who was sentenced to two years in jail few months ago. There were no other ethnic discrimination related cases which had been followed.

The people of Afghanistan do not take ethnic discrimination serious – a reason no one has so far seriously registered any complaints in this respect with the judicial organs.

Complaints, investigation:

More than 31 percent of people, who experienced discrimination, registered complaints. They did not move courts or judicial bodies but approached high-ranking officials. Seventy percent did not lodge any complaints.

More than 32 percent say their complaints were investigated. The rest of complaints were not addressed.

Afghanistan signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1980. But the convention was officially approved and implemented in 2003.

The AIHRC said the government had submitted only one initial report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1984.

In its report of 1998 to the United Nations General Assembly, the certain committee expressed concern that Afghanistan had not submitted any report and emphasized that the report of Afghan government in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention was fair.

Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the AIHRC’s duties and powers provide advice to the government on better implementation of its obligations to protect human rights.

In recent years, AIHRC asked the government at different meetings to take concrete steps to prepare and submit a report to the committee. The government responded positively to the demand for the preparation of the report.

Suggestions

AIHRC urged the government to launch cultural, educational and public awareness programmes on racial discrimination and its horrific consequences.

It urged the creation of a mechanism or system for receiving complaints from victims of racial discrimination and effective handling of these cases through judicial organs.

The panel called for quick formal action to distribute ID cards to the citizens who were deprived of their right because of discrimination.

The strengthening of oversight mechanisms for activities of public service institutions, transparency in the recruitment, promotions and repression of employees in government agencies, the allocation of non-discriminatory development budget to all provinces is another proposal floated by the commission.

AIHRC Chairperson Sima Samar, while announcing the findings of the study, said efforts had bn made to prepare and publish the report to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

“Discrimination in Afghanistan is one of the major challenges to social life and a source of violence, a key factor behind the continuation of violence. Effort must be made to achieve a safe and non-discriminatory society,” remarked Samar.

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