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30 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 30 December (IRIN) - Following 16 days of debate and discussion at the Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ), the 502-member UN-supervised meeting was called on to move towards voting on a final draft of the constitution as the open forum at the meeting resumed on Tuesday.

29 Dec 2003 description

ANKARA, 29 December (IRIN) - Reports emerging from the Afghan/Iran border suggest thousands of Afghan refugees who lived in Bam, scene of Friday's destructive earthquake that killed an estimated 20,000 people, are heading home after having lost everything in the disaster.

26 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 26 December (IRIN) - As Afghanistan's historic Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ) continues its deliberations, women delegates - who make up just 20 percent of the 500-member gathering - and local gender pressure groups are pushing for women's rights to be fully enshrined in the nation's new constitution.

24 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 24 December (IRIN) - A recent declaration by the new US commander in Afghanistan, Lt-Gen David Barno, to the effect that aid groups must accept that they can no longer be neutral, has prompted discussion about the role of humanitarian organisations in regions where security is poor. His comments followed a series of attacks on UN and NGO aid workers in the south over the past two months.

23 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 23 December (IRIN) - According to a spokeswoman for the Constitutional Loya Jirga (CLJ), the historic gathering is finally making progress, but there is still no indication when the UN-supervised meeting will end. President Hamid Karzai said at the weekend that he hoped it would conclude its proceedings by the end of December.

19 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 19 December (IRIN) - As the historic Constitutional Loya Jirga enters its sixth day in the capital Kabul, the 500-member grand council has yet to tackle the substantive business of the gathering - ratifying the country's post-conflict draft constitution. Sa'era Sharif is a delegate from the eastern province of Khowst, one of just 100 female representatives. In an interview with IRIN, she gave her views on the week's proceedings and her hopes for the gathering.

16 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 16 December (IRIN) - Sebghatullah, 35, was extremely happy to have reached Kabul in under five hours from the southern province of Kandahar, a journey that used to take two days along the key highway rendered unservicable by years of war and neglect. "I had breakfast in Kandahar today and will have lunch in Kabul in a few minutes, it is now like a journey by plane," the father of four told IRIN in Durrani, a district of the central province of Vardak about 40 km south of Kabul.

15 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 15 December (IRIN) - Patriotic songs calling for unity by a choir of traditionally dressed Afghan children from the nation's component ethnic groups marked the launch on Sunday of the historic Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, bringing together 500 representatives, ranging from conservative, illiterate clerics to Western-educated exiles, to debate a post-conflict constitution.

12 Dec 2003 description

ISLAMABAD, 12 December (IRIN) - Just over 10,000 Afghan refugees sheltered in a remote refugee camp in the Khyber Agency, about 70 km from Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), are to be offered a choice between repatriation and or relocation to another camp in Pakistan by March, according to an official of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official.

12 Dec 2003 description

[This article is part of an IRIN web special on the issue of child soldiers published today. In addition to this story, the web special includes a special report on the issue of child soldiers, other country-specific features, background documents and links to resources available for further reading on the Internet. To access the web special please go to: www.IRINnews.org/webspecials/childsoldiers/]

12 Dec 2003 description

[This article is part of an IRIN web special on the issue of child soldiers published today. In addition to this story, the web special includes a special report on the issue of child soldiers, other country-specific features, background documents and links to resources available for further reading on the Internet. To access the web special please go to: www.IRINnews.org/webspecials/childsoldiers/]

11 Dec 2003 description

POL-E KHOMRI, 11 December (IRIN) - The voices of people yelling "Food food, food, we want our rights," mixed with the din of empty plates and dishes being knocked together rang out from the tiny dark windows of the Pol-e Khomri provincial jail in the northeastern Baghlan Province. When IRIN visited it, the inmates were on hunger strike in protest against insufficient food and poor living conditions in the antiquated and overcrowded facility.

11 Dec 2003 description

KABUL, 11 December (IRIN) - Shafiqah had to spend Wednesday night out on the hillside with her seven children as recent rainfall had washed away the homeless returnee's tent in the Jangalak mountain area of the capital, Kabul. "It is very hard to pass the cold night out here with hungry stomachs," the mother of seven who had returned from neighboring Pakistan told IRIN.

10 Dec 2003 description

POL-E KHOMRI, 10 December (IRIN) - Mohammad Amin had to knock on many official doors during his struggle to regain his farmland after it was confiscated by a local commander in his village of Kaylahgay in the northeastern Baghlan Province. "After several months of endeavour, I had to stop trying to get my land back, when the final person I was referred to was the commander who took my land in the first place," the 40-year-old farmer told IRIN in Pol-e Khomri, the capital of Baghlan Province.

09 Dec 2003 description

KONDUZ, 9 December (IRIN) - Ahmad Mursal is a 42-year-old ex-soldier who has recently exchanged his AK-47 assault rifle for a plough. After a quarter of a century in the military, he is adjusting to his new job as a farmer just outside the northeastern city of Konduz.

04 Dec 2003 description

ANKARA, 4 December (IRIN) - The EC has awarded a €26 million (about US $31.5 million) contract to a Chinese engineering company, China Railway Shisiju Group Corporation, for the first reconstruction phase of the vital 222-km Kabul-Jalalabad-Torkham (Towr Kham) road.

03 Dec 2003 description

SALANG, 3 December (IRIN) - Aziz Agha, a driver, told IRIN that since the closure of the Salang tunnel in July it had been taking him five days to drive his 20,000-litre diesel tanker south to the capital, Kabul, from the northern city of Heyratan along unmade roads across the Hindu Kush mountains. Now, this key route via the tunnel has been partially reopened, coinciding with the blocking of the high passes by snow and ice. "It is only a day and half now that the tunnel has been reopened," the 35-year- old said in Salang.

02 Dec 2003 description

KONDUZ, 2 December (IRIN) - Murad Khan, a farmer, waited patiently in a long queue on Tuesday. He was lining up to register as a voter, keen to take part in the first democratic initiative in Afghanistan in more than a generation, as UN-backed voter registration got under way in the northeastern city of Konduz for the country's national elections due to be held next year.

27 Nov 2003 description

KANDAHAR, 27 November (IRIN) - Clad in white, 16-year-old Zahrah carefully sorts raisins in one of Afghanistan's first food-processing factories. The factory providing employment to women in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual base of the nation's erstwhile Taliban rulers, who banned women's work and education.

25 Nov 2003 description

KABUL, 25 November (IRIN) - As Afghanistan begins to register voters early next month for next year's presidential elections, a local think-tank released a statement over the weekend arguing that holding elections next year was risky and could further destabilise the country as the situation on the ground was unfavourable for free and fair elections.