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The Killid Group

Unemployed youth go to Taliban

Written by Zia Ul Haq Muhammadi & Inayatu Rahman Mayar
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 12:16

Unemployed youth go to Taliban


High rates of unemployment are driving youth, some of them well-educated, to earn a living through crime or even join the insurgency, a Killid investigation finds.  Interviewing youth who have joined the insurgency, Killid found most have been impelled by economic reasons; others by resentment against the international military.

Those looking for jobs said it was hard to find work as labourers, even on daily wages. Some were considering looking towards the insurgency as a source of employment while others had already joined the armed opposition.

Muhammad Ayub, a 28-year old man sits near the Pul-e-Khisthi mosque waiting for someone to employ him. "All the job seekers come here and they mob anyone who is looking for a labourer. Everybody tries to find work for a little money and works hard to feed their family", he says. Ayub adds that many of the traffic roundabouts in the city are full of men like him waiting to find work.

Though Afghanistan has a high rate of illiteracy, it is not just uneducated or illiterate men who find themselves looking for employment as labourers. Even those who have secured a university education with difficulty cannot find employment in any organization or office quite often.

Ahmad Jawed graduated from the department of literature and linguistics in Kabul University several years ago but has not been able to find a job yet. "I have been looking for a job ever since I graduated. Wherever I apply for a job, they tell me they will contact me but in fact the jobs go to those who have connections".

The lack of employment has driven some men to despair. Zabiullah is an unemployed youth from Parwan province who has come to Kabul to look for work.  He says he waits from morning to late afternoon at the Kote Sangi roundabout, but there is no work. He told Killid that he was willing to do any kind of work but that he could not find anything. "There is no work. Not even a job driving a cart, washing clothes or as a sweeper. What should I do then? I have to steal or rob someone or even join the insurgents".

Joining insurgents

Another young man from the Wardak province who did not want to be identified was no longer waiting for employment. He had already joined the insurgents out of desperation. Deported from Iran where he had gone to find employment he waited several months to try and get a job before he gave up. "I was fed up with being jobless. People despised me. I couldn't find any work, so I had to pick up a weapon to fight the government. I had to join the Taliban as a last resort. Now that I have a weapon, I have both work and food." Even today, the young insurgent asserted, if he were to find a job he would lay down his weapon. The reason for not giving his name is the fear that Taliban would kill him if they knew he has accepted to be interviewed.

Similar instances of youth joining the insurgents out of economic desperation are visible in other volatile provinces. Abdul Majid, a resident of Kunduz, confirms that young men in the area are joining the Taliban because of unemployment. Raaz Muhammad from Helmand province cites an example close to home.  "My cousin has joined the Taliban for the same reason and now he is a fighter. Why would someone with a job fight? If there was work, my cousin wouldn't have joined the insurgents."

His comments coincide with the claims of the Afghan government which argues that the bulk of the insurgents are driven by reasons other than ideology. The government has launched a two-pronged strategy for Reconciliation and Reintegration. While Reconciliation will be the negotiated settlement with the insurgent leadership, Reintegration is expected to win over the foot-soldiers of the insurgency with promises of guarantees of jobs, security and other perks.

The spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Zamarai Bashary, says the Ministry has no accurate information about the phenomenon of youth joining the insurgency because of unemployment and that this would require investigation.

But some experts say unemployment is not the only factor motivating young men to join the Taliban. Wahid Mujda, a political analyst, says in addition to unemployment there are many other grievances that fuel the insurgency. Civilian casualties caused by the aerial bombardment by international forces, which results in the deaths of women, children and elder men has caused resentment amongst people against the international military he says.

Taliban denies

However, the public relations officer at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, Dr. Farid Roid says the main reason for youth joining the insurgency is unemployment. " If we don't create job opportunities for the unemployed, they will have no choice but to stand against the government", he says. Dr. Roid adds that the Ministry has signed many agreements with national and international organisations aimed at creating jobs for the youth and as a result tens of thousands of ryoung men were employed.

In a telephone interview with Killid, the spokesman for Taliban, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, denied the claims that youth join the insurgency due to unemployment saying that the Taliban do not fight for money, but because of their obligation. "Jihad is mandatory and there is no return on fulfilling one's obligations because this is what the Quran, Hadith and Islam teaches", he says.

An official in charge of  youth affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Timor Shah Ishaqzai, agrees  that some young men join the Taliban, but adds that a large number of them have returned back, reintegrated through the 'Tahkim-e-Solh', the peace and reconciliation project headed by former President Sibgatullah Mojaddedi which was launched in 2005 .

The challenge of sustaining the process of reintegration is however highlighted by the failure to deliver on the promises made to surrendering insurgents. Many of those reconciled through this commission say the government has not kept its promises. This is true not just of the rank and file, the foot soldiers of the insurgency, but even those at the level of commanders. Hazrat Muhammad Gardary of Balkh province, who was a commander of a division during Taliban rule and is now reconciled with the government though the commission, says: "I was promised that I would be provided with a safe place to live in Mazar-e-Sharif [the provincial capital], but it has been many years and the government has not kept its promise".

Siamak Herawi, assistant to the president's spokesman, however alleges that it is the fault of the commission. "The commission is flawed; it should have presented a list of reconciled Taliban to the government and paved the way for their employment", he says. Herawi adds the government will provide the reconciled Taliban with job opportunities through the newly set up High Peace Council.

Muhammad Akram, who was a member of the Tahkim-e-Solh and is now a member of the High Peace Council, says in five and half years 9380 insurgents have been reintegrated with the government with the help of 2300 tribal leaders. He blames government negligence for not fulfilling the promises made to the ex-insurgents.  Out of 65 percent of insurgents who have reconciled with the government through the commission, only 15 percent have jobs, he says.

The deputy of the Afghan Youth Association, Mir Jalaludin Husha, says during the past 9 years, the government hasn't been able to provide the youth with job opportunities. "During the last three decades, youth have been deprived of their rights, and things didn't go for them the way they had expected", he says.

Even though there are no accurate statistics about the rate of unemployment amongst youth, the head of the Labour Union, Abdul Zahir Kargar, says the unemployment rate in the country is 75%. The General Director of the Central Statistics Organisation, Abdul Rahman Ghafoori, says that they have not conducted a survey on youth unemployment. However figures related to the population demographics, released by the CSO earlier in the year show youth make up half of the population of Afghanistan.

Based on the estimates in 2008, out of 26 million, 49 percent of people are below the age of 18 years.

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