Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan
It was 2am when the aerial bombardment started. Ahmed described to me, in an interview in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, how he and has family huddled together behind a wall. “We said that if we were going to die, we would die together.” The bombing by ISAF troops continued for two hours. Nine of Ahmed’s neighbors died and eleven civilians were injured, including three of Ahmed’s family members: his mother and his two brothers.
When the bombing finally ended, Ahmed grabbed his family members, found a bus and sent them to Kandahar city. He and his neighbors then tried to get the badly injured and dying to a hospital. In one of the houses, five family members were dead. The head of this household pulled his son from the rubble. His son was crying, saying “I’m cold, I’m so cold.” Ahmed found a blanket and put it over the boy, but he died not long afterwards.
The coalition troops had been told that the Taliban were hiding in Ahmed’s village. This is why the bombing had targeted near these civilian homes. But Ahmed told me that when the land troops came after the air strike, they found no Taliban and only civilians. The foreign troops therefore promised to compensate Ahmed and his neighbors. But they said that they would pay only for the dead and not for the livestock and land that had been lost.
In this case, the ISAF troops did compensate the civilians who were injured and who had lost family members. They also officially apologized for their mistake. Ahmed, however, does not feel that enough has been done to help the civilians who were wrongfully targeted, particularly because no compensation was given for the loss of land and livestock. He told me that many of the villagers were forced to come to Kandahar City to try to find work because “they don’t have the money to rebuild their homes after all the destruction that happened in the air strike. Now they are in Kandahar City and they cannot find work. So they are starving. And these people – and my own family – we cannot find help from anyone.”
Ahmed’s family is only managing to survive because his son went to work in Iran and sends money home to the family. Ahmed wishes he could return to his village to start farming his land again. But the security situation is too risky. So he and his neighbors remain trapped in Kandahar, too scared to return home but barely able to survive in a city where jobs are scarce and the cost of living is high.