Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisis: Tracing the history and Legalities

Afghanistan humanitarian Crisis
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“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened”

. – John F. Kennedy

 The world is already facing some deadly humanitarian crises. One such is the Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisis. The country has been in an unsettled state for more than a decade. The Taliban and USA conflict has broken the peace. Adding to this pathetic state Mr Ramiz Alakbarov, Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan declared $1.3 billion appeals in 2021. The fund is less than 40% to that of the previous year. The country was suffering from internal violence and the severity of Covid-19 has brought it to the brink of an inhumane crisis. Many countries are involved in the Afghanistan conflict but only for their selfish geopolitical needs. The situation seriously calls for international support otherwise the country will be irrevocably annihilated.

The article attempts to analyses the history of Afghanistan which led the country to its current phase. Besides, the legal aspects in the same have been identified along with the role of international law. 

Historical Background

The history of Afghanistan is a complex read. There were countless events that have led Afghanistan to the situation that we are referring to today as the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis. Primarily the two most fundamental aspects of these internal conflicts and the state of thrashed peace were i) the contest of the so-called superpowers in the map to exert their influence and power, ii) The two political parties with completely different ideologies, precisely the Communist and the Islamist.

During the times of the British Raj in India, Afghanistan was between the British occupied territory and the land of the Soviet Union. In 1907 Anglo- Russian Convention took place. In the convention, Russia agreed that Afghanistan was a British- influence territory.

Despite this successful convention USA, British and Soviet Union were engaged in geopolitical strategies to implement their command. The history added to its complexities after 1964 when the country adopted its own Constitution. Firstly, there emerged two groups with different ideologies- The Communist and the Islamist. Secondly, the government was democratic merely by its name. It was more of a monarch or dictatorship kind. However chief personalities of the country like Muhammad Daoud Khan, Amanullah khan perceived a liberal approach. These reforms included some hard changes which were not accepted by the extremist group of the Islamists. 

Due to the monarchial power, the extremist could not protest against these liberal reforms peacefully. Their aggression took the forms of a coup and assassinations of these powerful people. Another contest of superpowers got in between. The Soviet Union backed the Communists whereas the USA could not tolerate the Soviet’s influence, supported the Islamists.

The Islamists were abhorred by the Pashtuns, one of the most prominent ethnic groups in the country. In the 1990s the terror and power of the Pashtun group grew stronger and stronger. Currently, they are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan Gradually this initiated the formation of the Taliban. They endorsed a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The brutal treatment by them in the country got the attention internationally. 

In the series of above events the Afghans were subjugated and are under struggle to date to see the peaceful days


The country has been subject to internal conflicts and brutal violence due to warfare. Children are forcefully recruited to be part of armed groups. The women of the country are exposed to sexual -abuse. The basic necessities which are identified by human rights have got far away from these people. The mass displacement of people has worsened the plight. The media and journalism are targeted and killed.  

Role of International Law

International Human Rights Law has manifested various human rights. The government of the countries are obligated to preserve these rights for the citizens. The United Nation proudly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 for these basic rights. 

In regard to Afghanistan, the country has been deprived of all the rights. The civilian casualties have surged by 29% as per UNHCR reports. The portion of the uprooted population has exponentially increased. Human rights defenders are intimidated and killed. The freedom of expression and speech is restrained by limiting access to information. The rising insecurity has disrupted social services, losses of income and a proper education system.   

International Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law is the branch of international law. It regulates the conduct of wars to lessen the pain of hostilities and the person not engaged in the warfare. The law is sourced from conventions like Geneva Convention and Hague Convention. 

Under the basic rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, seven rules were identified from the Geneva Convention. Some of the relevant rules to the situation have been noted below.

Rule 3 mentions that- “The wounded and sick shall be collected and care for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Protection also covers medical personnel, establishments, transports and equipment. The emblem of the red cross or the red crescent is the sign of such protection and must be respected. “

Rule 4 mentions that- “Captured combatants and civilians under the authority of an adverse party are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and convictions. They shall be protected against all acts of violence and reprisals. They shall have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.”

Statistics account for more than 3.5 million displaced population as the consequence of the armed conflicts. The displaced masses are taking shelter in the countries like Iran and Pakistan. Amidst this, they only run for their life and safety. The people are down in the dumps. They are deprived of medical care, proper food, safe dwellings or any other basic needs.   


Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central-South Asia. The developments in the country have impacts around. For India, it has posed the most difficult situation in the external sphere. As the world has become a global village, the promise of universal implementation of human rights is still to be met. The international organization need to focus on the issue devotedly. The Superpowers instead of adopting a self-serving attitude should try to restore peace in the country. The accessibility of the basic human rights for every human on the planet should be ensured by all and all means. 

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