KABUL: Afghanistan's war cost 13-year-old shoe shiner Hameedullah his education. Poverty forced Sabir, 11, to flee home and sell dried fruits on Kabul's streets. Niyamathullah, 9, hangs out in a park, looking for work.
Such is the lot of many a child in Afghanistan, which this week passes another sombre milestone. On Monday, the conflict turned 18, meaning every single Afghan child now has known only war.
"Peace is like a dream to us in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Mobin, a 17-year-old Kabul high schooler. "Afghanistan can develop only if we have peace."
On Oct 7, 2001, the United States launched air strikes against Afghanistan, following the Sep 11 attacks conducted by Al-Qaeda that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US.
The Taliban, who had refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, were toppled within weeks, but the ensuing insurgent conflict has dragged on ever since and become the longest war in US history.
Violence has only worsened in recent years, disproportionately impacting children.
"Since we were born, we have had no peace in our country, it has only been fighting and conflict," said Sayed Ibrahim, an 18-year-old medical student in Kabul.
The UN published a report last week saying that from 2015 to 2018, researchers studying the plight of Afghan kids documented more than 14,000 grave violations against them throughout the country, marking a sharp increase from the previous four years.
"Imagine turning 18 having known nothing but conflict and war throughout your entire childhood and formative years," said Onno van Manen, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan.
"Life in Afghanistan means living in daily fear of explosions, missing school because it's too unsafe and not knowing if your parents or siblings will make it home."
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says the number of attacks against Afghan schools tripled last year compared to 2017. By the end of 2018, more than 1,000 Afghan schools had been shut due to conflict.
"I don't study because I have no money, I have to make money to support my family," said Sabir, an 11-year-old boy who fled his home province of Ghazni to sell peanuts, sunflower seeds and dried fruits in central Kabul.
"We have to go to school and get an education. We can end fighting through education."
'NO PROPER JOBS'
The 2001 invasion did herald some enduring improvements for many young Afghans – particularly girls, who had been banned from receiving an education under the Taliban.
In Kabul and other urban centres, schools and universities flourished, and an entire generation of children now has never known Taliban rule.
But the economy remains so weak that poorer families often yank their kids from sRead More – Source