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The ‘man-made hazard’ of war is universal in many developing countries, but it is one of many social and physical hazards they experience firsthand. This article from IHRR’s archives looks specifically at research on resilience in young people in Afghanistan from two researchers: Catherine Panter-Brick and Mark Eggerman, whose work was based at Durham University. They found that young people’s traumatic experiences in Afghanistan are not confined to war, but ‘range from armed insurgency to severe family level conflict’. Traumatic experiences caused by ‘everyday violence’ in Afghanistan lead to psychiatric disorders along with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Today, one in five school children in Afghanistan is likely to suffer from clinical mental health problems.
In Afghanistan, young people are trapped within a landscape of violence that is not limited to war. According to Eggerman, the kinds of violence young Afghans are exposed to include everything from ‘falling off a roof while flying a kite to witnessing a suicide bomb attack at a bus stop in Kabul’. ‘There’s a spectrum of violence -– it’s not all about the war -– and it isn’t uniform’, he said. The popular media’s of Afghanistan would have you believe that the entire country is a war zone. But young people’s exposure to war-related violence depends on what part of Afghanistan they live in and 80% of young people interviewed by Panter-Brick and Eggerman had not left the country. Older children had memories of devastating violence such as rockets falling during the Mujahideen civil war in the mid-1990s. In Bamyan, they witnessed villages burn down and people severely beaten or shot by the Taliban.
But there were many other young people who had little exposure to political violence, although they had witnessed other acts of violence in their neighbourhood such as stabbings or severe public beatings. They, along with other youth in Afghanistan, are focused on how to ‘make ends meet’ and live up to their family’s hopes and expectations. Despite living in a country torn by war and other forms of violence, many young Afghans are just striving for socioeconomic survival. Read more