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Afghanistan: Girls at increasing risk of child marriage

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Engaged at age 7 and married at 14, a former Afghan child bride finally received treatment from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for depression and other chronic illnesses. © UNFPA Afghanistan

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has received credible reports of families in Afghanistan offering daughters as young as 20 days old for future marriage in return for a dowry.

In a statement released on Friday, the agency’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said that she was “deeply concerned” over reports that child marriage is on the rise.  

Even before the latest political instability, UNICEF’s partners registered 183 child marriages and 10 cases of selling of children in Herat and Baghdis provinces between the ages of six months and 17 years from 2018 to 2019.  

The agency estimates that 28 per cent of Afghan women between the ages 15 and 49 were married before they reached their 18th birthday. 

A growing crisis 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing food crisis and the onset of winter have further exacerbated the situation for families. 

In 2020, almost half of Afghanistan’s population was so poor that they lacked basic necessities, such as nutrition or clean water. 

And the extremely dire economic situation is pushing more families deeper into poverty and forcing them to make desperate choices, such as putting children to work and marrying girls off at a young age. 

“As most teenage girls are still not allowed to go back to school, the risk of child marriage is now even higher”, Ms. Fore said. “Education is often the best protection against negative coping mechanisms such as child marriage and child labour”.-* 

Lifetime of suffering 

UNICEF is working with partners to raise the awareness of communities on the risks girls face when marrying early, such as a lifetime of suffering. 

Girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence, discrimination, abuse and poor mental health. They are also more vulnerable to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. 

The agency has started a cash assistance programme to help offset the risk of hunger, child labour and child marriage among the most vulnerable families. The plan is to scale up this and other social services programmes in the months to come. 

UNICEF will also work with religious leaders to ensure that they are not involved in the “Nekah”, or marriage contract, for young girls. 

“But this is not enough”, said Ms. Fore, calling on central, provincial and local authorities to support and safeguard the most vulnerable families and girls. 

She also urged the de facto authorities to prioritize the reopening of all secondary schools for girls and allow all-female teachers to resume their jobs without any further delays. 

“The future of an entire generation is at stake”, she concluded.  

‘Dramatic situation’ 

In parallel coverage, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) closed its 18th session. 

In her concluding remarks, Gladys Acosta Vargas, the Committee Chairperson, said all Members were “deeply concerned about the dramatic situation” of women and girls in Afghanistan. 

She argued that it was “crucial” that the Committee decided to request an exceptional report on their situation, at an opportune time. 

The Committee also asked for the creation of an informal task force to consider the impact of the evolving political, economic and social situation on the rights of women and girls. 

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Europe accuses US of ‘profiting from war’

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Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer. “The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,” one senior official told POLITICO.

Washington announced a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act that Brussels went into full-blown panic mode. “The Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything,” one EU diplomat said. “Is Washington still our ally or not?”

“We are really at a historic juncture,” the senior EU official said, arguing that the double hit of trade disruption from U.S. subsidies and high energy prices risks turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. “America needs to realize that public opinion is shifting in many EU countries.”

The biggest point of tension in recent weeks has been Biden’s green subsidies and taxes that Brussels says unfairly tilt trade away from the EU and threaten to destroy European industries. Despite formal objections from Europe, Washington has so far shown no sign of backing down.

As they attempt to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, EU countries are turning to gas from the U.S. instead — but the price Europeans pay is almost four times as high as the same fuel costs in America. Then there’s the likely surge in orders for American-made military kit as European armies run short after sending weapons to Ukraine.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the risks that the increasingly toxic atmosphere will have for the Western alliance.

“The U.S. is following a domestic agenda, which is regrettably protectionist and discriminates against U.S. allies,” said Tonino Picula, the European Parliament’s lead person on the transatlantic relationship.

Cheaper energy has quickly become a huge competitive advantage for American companies, too. Businesses are planning new investments in the U.S. or even relocating their existing businesses away from Europe to American factories. Just this week, chemical multinational Solvay announced t is choosing the U.S. over Europe for new investments, in the latest of a series of similar announcements from key EU industrial giants.

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American view: ‘Putting an end to Volodymyr Zelensky’s follies!’

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“Zelensky comes out of the process smelling really bad as he has worked assiduously at blaming Russia, which clearly is not true,” – writes Philip Giraldi from Ron Paul Institute.

One week ago, he reminds, the Ukrainian government may have deliberately attacked neighbor Poland in an attempt to draw the NATO alliance into its war with Russia. The incident involved a missile that hit a grain processing site inside Poland and killed two farmers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately blamed Russia for the incident even though he surely must have known that the missile had been fired from Ukraine, meaning that he may have been using a so-called “false flag” to create a false narrative of what had occurred.

Given the fact that Zelensky has been saying and doing everything possible to draw the US and NATO into fighting Russia on his behalf, I believe that the missile strike was quite plausibly a deliberate “false flag” attempt to start a much broader war.

That such a war could easily turn nuclear reveals just how reckless Zelensky can be. One NATO country foreign diplomat based in Kiev told “The Financial Times”, that “This is getting ridiculous. The Ukrainians are destroying [our] confidence in them. Nobody is blaming Ukraine and they are openly lying. This is more destructive than the missile.”

There has been considerable speculation that the unregulated and unmonitored flow of billions of dollars of US taxpayer provided money through Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government provided a perfect mechanism for large scale money laundering.

Even assuming that the Ukrainian missile strike on Poland was due to some malfunction, Zelensky comes out of the process smelling really bad as he has worked assiduously at blaming Russia, which clearly is not true.

He is using his contrived narrative to dramatically expand the war by creating a situation which would bring NATO directly into the conflict and which could easily go nuclear.

Indeed, he is attempting to compel NATO participation.

Beyond that, the US and NATO, burdened with such an “ally,” should take immediate steps to disengage from supporting the fighting and call for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

To be sure, Zelensky is capable of anything and no lie is too mendacious for the former comedy actor who is now basking in the glow of his celebrity, writes Philip Giraldi.

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Iran’s Parliament approves bill on accession to SCO

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Iran’s Parliament has approved by a majority vote a bill on the Islamic republic’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), according TASS information.

205 parliamentarians voted for the bill, 3 voted against and 4 abstained.

On September 30, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a bill on the country’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. According to the Young Journalists Club news agency, Raisi sent the bill to the country’s parliament for consideration.

Iran signed a memorandum on liabilities for joining the Organization.

The Organization’s summit in Uzbekistan on September 15-16 launched the procedure of admitting Belarus as a full-fledged member.

Egypt and Qatar were granted a dialogue partner status, while Bahrain, Kuwait, the Maldives, Myanmar, and Saudi Arabia began the procedure for obtaining this status.

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