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아프간 어린이의 희망

2007.10.26

* Hope for children at risk
* 01 Jul 2007


So many victims of the war are not in the war zones – and these are some of them. Street children of Kabul who for three hours a day lead a different and safer life in the Aschiana Centre, where they learn arts and skills not allowed in the Taliban time.

One of the cruel effects of the war is that tides of children, some with their parents but many without, have fled from the countryside and broken over the cities. The government reckons there are now more than 50,000 street children in Afghanistan.

Aschiana looks after as many as 10,000, for as long as it can. It sells their art to help make ends meet. But at the end of the year its principal funding runs out. It will then join the children in the constant struggle to live from day to day and hand to mouth.

Noor Zia is 11. She has four sisters and two bothers. Her father is too weak to work. She says: my hope for the future of Afghanistan is that it should become one united country. If we could go to school and learn knowledge, then we could build Afghanistan and have a peaceful country.

There’s a living of a sort to be made on the streets. This boy is 11 and an only child. He earns a little over a dollar a day as a goatherd, scavenging as he goes for paper and cardboard to take home and burn on the evening fire for cooking. At least he makes a regular living. Most of the street children do not.

In Afghanistan’s cities, there is another category of children worse off than any of these – out of sight and usually out of mind, the victims not of the war but of the country’s custom and practice.

These are the girls in women’s prisons and juvenile correctional centres, which are places of total despair. The women’s jail in the western city of Herat holds 49 inmates and 35 of their children. These very young go out to a kindergarten every day, but for the rest of the time are as locked up as much as their mothers.

Some of the convicts in the women’s prison are not women but girls, who were married to men they hardly knew - some old enough to be their grandfathers.

Maryam, not her real name, is 16. She was engaged at six years old and married at 10. “I was so badly treated,” she says, “that finally I escaped to the city. After 20 days, I went to the authorities for help, and they put me in prison because they said I was not a clean wife.”

Of all the children in the women’s prison or the girls’ correctional facility in Herat, few if any would have been considered in most other countries to have committed a crime, but rather to have been the victims of child abuse.

Martin Bell to camera: There is surely no country on earth in which the young have to face a gre

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