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Watchdog Decries Afghan Military Use Of Schools

Children run to school in a village (file photo)
Children run to school in a village (file photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Afghan government to immediately curtail the use of schools as military bases during operations against the Taliban.

The New York-based global rights watchdog said on August 17 that Afghan security forces have been using schools for military purposes in the country's northeastern Baghlan Province.

“Afghan children’s education is at risk not just from the Taliban, but also from government forces that occupy their schools,” said HRW’s senior Afghanistan researcher, Patricia Gossman. “Children are being put in harm’s way by the very Afghan forces mandated to protect them.”

The organization’s new report, Education on the Front Lines: Military Use of Schools in Afghanistan’s Baghlan Province, documents the occupation and military use of schools by government forces and Taliban rebels in Baghlan.

The report alleges that Afghan security forces are "increasingly using schools -- the only concrete-reinforced buildings in some villages -- as their military bases during offensives against Taliban-held areas.”

The organization’s interviews with locals and schoolteachers established that at least 12 schools were used for "military purposes" in Baghlan.

The report says this places schools at risk of attacks and puts students and teachers in harm's way.

“A decade of achievement rebuilding Afghanistan’s educational system and increasing education for girls is at risk so long as schools are used by military forces and threatened with attack,” Gossman said.

Baghlan and its northern neighbor Kunduz are among the most heavily contested provinces. The Taliban already control several districts in the region and frequently attack security forces.

With more than 8 million Afghan children enrolled in schools, education is often touted as one of the major successes after the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime in late 2001.

Gossman called on the Afghan authorities to “get its soldiers out of the schools.” Human Rights Watch asked Kabul to discipline officers using schools as bases "regardless of [their] rank."

It also called on the Taliban to stop attacking schools.

With reporting by DPA

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