Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Afghanistan: Marjah - “The Taliban are harassing people. Their war is not over but has just started”

The spokesman of the governor of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan has clashed with local aid workers and the provincial refugee department over displaced people from the town of Marjah two months after a NATO and Afghan government operation to clear the area of insurgents.

Over the past two weeks about 100 families have left Marjah in Helmand Province, and sought refuge in the provincial capital Lashkargah, according to aid workers.

“People are fleeing from Marjah out of fear and insecurity,” Ahmadullah Ahmadi, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) office in Helmand, told IRIN.

“The Taliban are harassing people. Their war is not over but has just started,” said Ghulam Farooq Noorzai, provincial director of the refugee affairs department, adding that they were using civilians as human shields in sporadic attacks on Afghan and foreign forces.

Noorzai said his department had registered the return, to the Nad Ali District of Helmand which includes Marjah, of 974 families over the past two months, but that over 2,800 families were still in Lashkargah.

“People are not returning to their home areas due to insecurity,” he said.

However, Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman of the governor of Helmand, said those newly leaving Marjah were “opium farmers” who had only gone there to harvest poppy fields, claiming that the situation in Marjah was good and services were being delivered.

Ahmadi accused some aid agencies of exaggerating the number of displaced for personal gain: “Unfortunately internal displacement has become a business for some people,” Dawood Ahmadi said.

NATO forces and the provincial authorities are trying to deliver aid and services in Nad Ali District but the environment for aid distribution and rehabilitation is difficult as insurgents have reportedly been warning people not to engage with such projects or benefit from them. UN and other international aid agencies have limited or no staff presence.

The Taliban allegedly murdered a man in Marjah on 30 April because he had received compensation for damage to his house and fields caused during the February 2010 offensive.

“The Taliban initially asked him to give them the money but when he refused they beat him to death and stuffed his aid papers in his mouth,” said a local man who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The Taliban punish those on whom they find dollars or afghanis [local currency] because they consider these currencies signs of treason and support for the government,” said another man, explaining that the insurgents used Pakistani currency.

No Taliban spokesman was immediately available to comment.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN

See also Sydney Irresistible and Mike Hitchen Unleashed
Putting principles before profits