The World

Afghanistan. The thousand faces of a land scarred by war.

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan has been embroiled in numerous wars and conflicts, which have driven millions of Afghans into exile. At the same time, its population has tripled in 40 years, and has grown by 90 percent in the last 20 years.

Rafael Miner-September 11, 2021-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

The relationship between economic progress, stability and employment, and a nation's fertility is not usually correlated, not even in Afghanistan. In a country like Afghanistan, embroiled in endless wars and conflicts from 1979 until now, more than four decades, the population has tripled. And under Western occupation with an end that we are seeing these weeks, its population has grown by more than 90 percent, to almost 40 million inhabitants, plus 2.6 million refugees, most of them in Pakistan (1.4) and Iran (1). It is therefore approaching Spain, which had 47 million inhabitants in 2019.

In the middle of the 20th century, in 1950, Spaniards numbered 28 million, and Afghans, just under 7.8 million. Now, Afghans number about 43 million, including refugees, only a few million less than the Spanish population. "Sixty years ago, large European countries had many more children and young people than Afghanistan, then sparsely populated. Now, those European nations have the same or fewer children or young people than then (they would be even fewer without the children of non-European immigrants), while Afghanistan has many more than any of them. There, much poorer and with less life expectancy, they have had many more children," explains Alejandro Macarrón, founder and general director of Demographic Renaissance.

Without the children of immigrants from outside the European Union at 28 (Africans or Asians, as well as many Ibero-Americans in Spain), there would be even fewer children under the age of 20 in Europe now. And "the spectacular turnaround" 1960-2020 in this age segment that represents the future in relation to Afghanistan would be even more noticeable, the consultant adds, especially in countries such as France and the United Kingdom, "whose total child and youth population today is more or less the same as in 1960, but which would be nowhere near the same without the children and grandchildren of African and Asian immigrants".

Another interesting fact is that in 1950, "the median age of the population (which divides it into two equal halves), was 27.5 years in Spain and 19.4 years in Afghanistan. While in 2020 it was 44.9 years in Spain, and 18.4 years for the Afghans (less than in 1950!)".

In relation to the wars, the birth rate and demographics, Alejandro Macarrón states that fertility in the United States began to grow incipiently even before World War II, and continued after the end of the conflict. This phenomenon also occurred in other allied countries such as France, especially during Nazi-occupied France.

Brief radiography

Four decades of conflict and violence have driven millions of Afghans into exile. The wars have caused enormous suffering, and the humanitarian situation in the country is critical, notes the UN agency for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since the beginning of the year, some 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, joining another 2.9 million Afghans who remain displaced inside the country.

These decades have made Afghanistan "the least peaceful country in the world," says UNHCR. The Afghan country is also one of the territories most exposed to natural disasters, such as drought, which affects 80 % of the population. "In addition, because of the pandemic, nine million people have lost their livelihoods, and new waves threaten to further exacerbate chronic poverty. All of this has an impact on the nutrition of the population: 45 % suffer from malnutrition."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has warned that once the evacuations in Afghanistan are completed, the millions of Afghans remaining in the country will need humanitarian aid from the international community. 

Discrimination against women

Journalists and analysts of various tendencies have analyzed what has happened in recent years in the Afghan nation. Since the arrival of the Taliban to power between 1994, when they took Kabul, and 1996, when they controlled 90 % of the territory, the discriminatory treatment of women, derived from a strict application of the 'Sharia', which seriously affects human rights, began to be perceived.

Among other provisions are the prohibition of women working outside the home, with some medical exceptions; the prohibition of leaving the house for any activity if not accompanied by a close male relative; or the veto of women's sports and the closing of business dealings with men, as reported by several media outlets.

Sociologically, the low life expectancy of Afghan women (66 years), almost 20 years less than in Spain; the figure of maternal mortality per 100,000 live births (638), or the high rate of teenage mothers, according to data collected by of the World Bank and UN Women.

Walls for immigrants

A few days ago, Pope Francis once again greeted with affection homeless people and numerous Afghans who had recently escaped from Kabul after the arrival of the Taliban regime, as reported by this portal. Among them were four brothers between 20 and 14 years old, who arrived in Italy thanks to the support of the Community of Sant'Egidio. According to the Sala Stampa of the Holy See, "at the end of the screening of the documentary 'Francis,' organized by the director and the Laudato si' Foundation, the Holy Father arrived in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall and spoke with approximately 100 people, homeless and refugees, invited to watch the film." Afterwards, the Pope returned to Casa Santa Marta and the organizers distributed food packages to everyone.

It is an example of the attitude that, once again, the Pope shows towards migrants and refugees, in this case Afghans, or in 2015 Syrians also fleeing from war. Welcoming and integration.

In the meantime, however, anti-immigrant walls erected by European countries to prevent the arrival of migrants from Africa, the Middle East or other neighboring countries are proliferating. In recent days, Greece has completed 40 kilometers of wall on the border with Turkey, while Poland and Lithuania have approved the construction of new barriers along the border with Belarus.

On the other hand, there are already 200 kilometers of barbed wire, turrets, etc. between Bulgaria and Turkey. Hungary has erected several hundred kilometers of fences along the border with Croatia and Serbia, while Austria has built a three-kilometer fence with Slovenia, which erected another 200 kilometers with Croatia. In addition, as is well known, fences of several kilometers separate the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla with Morocco, and Great Britain was considering placing nets in the English Channel to prevent the arrival of small boats.

If we refer to America, the best known is the one that affects part of the U.S.-Mexico border, which has a total of 3,142 kilometers. Before Trump came to the White House, there were already barriers or separation fences on about 1,000 kilometers. Due to funding difficulties, and other factors, the former president was only able to build 300 miles (480 kilometers) of the border wall," as reported by the BBC.

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