Afghanistan: 20 years there and much left to do

Kabul (ICRC) - On 12 June, the ICRC commemorated 20 years of continuous presence in Afghanistan with a photographic exhibition in Kabul. The ICRC has been doing humanitarian work in the country for 28 years and the exhibition illustrates the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement through all the phases of conflict during this period.

Throughout the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the International Red Cross, operating mainly from neighbouring Pakistan, provided aid to Afghan war victims. During the internal conflicts that followed, among the mujaheddin and between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, the ICRC's delegation in Afghanistan was its largest anywhere in the world, with more than 1,400 national and expatriate staff. The ICRC's work continued without respite after 11 September 2001 and its delegation in the country today remains one of its largest.

"While we are proud of what we have done, we are not here to dwell on the past. And we do not regard these photographs as a tribute to the ICRC or to the Afghan Red Crescent," said Reto Stocker, the ICRC's head of delegation in Kabul. "Rather, we consider them a record of the immense and seemingly unending suffering that 28 years of war have inflicted on the Afghan people. After all that they have already been put through - and only a fraction of it is recorded here - Afghans still live amidst death and destruction.

In his brief opening address, Mr Stocker spoke of the "great stoicism of the Afghan people" and of the need for the parties to the current conflict to "respect at all times both the letter and the spirit of humanitarian law, and thereby minimize the impact of the conflict on the civilian population and on those no longer fighting." He urged the parties to the conflict to "acknowledge the exclusively humanitarian nature of the ICRC's work and allow the ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent unimpeded access to the victims of the Afghan conflict." In closing, he said that "the burden faced by ordinary Afghans today is at least as great as ever" and that "much remains to be done for the victims of the armed conflict."

The exhibition is being held at the French Cultural Centre in Kabul and is open to the public every day, from 9.00 a.m. until 4.00 p.m., until 18 June 2007. In addition to the photographs on display, films related to the conflict in Afghanistan and to the ICRC's work will be shown throughout the day.

For further information, please contact:

Michael O'Brien, ICRC Kabul, tel. +93700 282 719
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