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  • Leen Alkhlaifat

Swept under the rug: UK government disguises child fatalities in Afghanistan with “compensations”


The charity organisation “Action On Armed Violence” (AOAV) has released a worrisome report which revealed that Britain was directly responsible for more than 135 child fatalities in Afghanistan during its involvement in Afghanistan’s war operations from 2006-2014. However, the UK reported 4 times less than that number. In turn, they issued “compensation payments” for 64 children when the deaths confirmed to the public were just 16.

The true figure was uncovered after AOAV issued a Freedom of Information Request for the Ministry of Defense (MOD) to release information on civilian fatalities. Compensation payments averaged roughly £1,656 pounds per family that experienced loss, according to the organisation. The report received global news coverage and has pushed the United Kingdom back into top stories in news sites for far from exemplary reasons.

This has opened the public’s eyes to the secrecy and lack of transparency of Britain’s military operations. It poses the question: how many children has the state directly murdered and swept under the rug? How has the UK government disguised British military murders with “compensations”?

The number one reason for Britain’s prevalent lack of transparency on child fatalities in Afghanistan is the global arms trade. Britain’s heavy involvement in the global arms trade has birthed dirty and secretive military operations. Requesting to improve transparency would not only reveal the dark world that is the global arms trade, but also how much Britain has contributed to it. For whistleblowers like Andrew Feinstein, the legal and illegal spectrums of the global arms trade have been like salt and sugar; they appear to be the exact same.

41% of the fatalities that were reported by the AOAV were caused by explosive weapons and airstrikes. Airstrikes and explosive weapons, which are a direct result of the arms trade, were used in densely populated areas. Additionally, with more than half of Afghanistan’s population under the age of 18, the British arms force has directly led to child fatalities. With Britain's heavy involvement in the global arms trade and tendency to intervene in military foreign affairs, how can we really expect a transparent MOD?

The MOD has very confidently implied that they have resolved these child fatalities by issuing “compensations”. Whilst the compensations ease the material losses of the affected families, it does not alleviate the emotional trauma that the British military caused. Children as young as 8 months were being murdered and this received zero media coverage. If the government really wanted to provide actual, substantial solutions to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, it would open its borders to those affected by the war, instead of taking an active part in it.

The executive director of AOAV, Dr. Ian Overton, who had initiated the Freedom of Information Request, told the BBC that they waited 2 years to get any details of the child deaths. Even after information was released, explanations of how civilians have been murdered remains a mystery to this day. The report included that the total fatalities will only be a “fraction of those killed by British forces”, whilst the rest are pushed far away under the great British rug.

Whilst the UK officially ended its participation in the Afghanistan war in 2014, in the following years 785 more children were confirmed dead. According to UN data, a whopping 813 children were injured by US and Afghan bombardments, which means children made up 40% of the total civilian casualties. The report highlights what is not simply a past occurrence but rather a tragic and shameful ongoing situation, with the upper hands not being held accountable.

The half reported deaths which we have now uncovered had occurred almost a decade ago, and it needed serious pressure from various organisations. It is quite shameful of the British MOD to not only release information on its abuses of human rights a decade later, but to also offer no real substantial solution or improvement since then. The government’s lack of transparency not only requires it to be seriously held accountable, but showcases just how neglected the children of forgotten and wounded nations are.

Whilst Britain continues to support European countries like Ukraine and take an active effort in accepting their refugees, it pushes forgotten children under the rug. The AOAV has willingly investigated the voiceless individuals drowning in war. They revealed not only the lack of transparency of the British government, but the wider societal neglect. We must stop pushing the voiceless under the rug that Western governments have placed. We need to do more to protect children of war, and treat them as no less than children coming from a European war.

Image: Flickr/ Nagma Khan



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