COVID-19: Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian disaster

The coronavirus is a threat to the peace process - Tens of thousands flee from Iran because of the virus (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns that Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian catastrophe because of the coronavirus. On Sunday, the Göttingen-based human rights organization stated that, during the last week alone, a total number of 53,000 Afghan refugees had hastily returned home from Iran for fear of an infection with COVID-19. "Afghanistan's health system is not prepared for the return of so many people who could potentially be infected. The country urgently needs more support to be able to help the refugees," demanded STP Director Ulrich Delius.  The fears of the refugees are justified. With 20,600 people infected and 1,556 dead, Iran is one of the countries most affected by the virus. There are about three million refugees from Afghanistan living in Iran. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 138,000 of them have returned home since the beginning of the year.

The human rights organization warned that the spread of the coronavirus in Afghanistan is a threat to the peace process in the country – also because foreign troops could be withdrawn in a hurry out of concern for the health of the soldiers. Last Thursday, for example, US troops stopped the deployment of 1,500 members of the army to Afghanistan, following reports regarding the extent of the COVID-19 crisis. "In the next few months, we might see a hasty withdrawal of foreign troops due to the coronavirus, allowing the Taliban to take control of the country. This would be a horror scenario for Afghanistan's women and for ethnic minorities like the persecuted Shiite Hazara," Delius warned.

The STP strongly criticized that population groups that are especially affected by human rights violations and the entire civil society are not involved in the peace negotiations with the Taliban. "These groups have the most to fear if the Taliban were to take power and establish a reign of terror," Delius emphasized.