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Nuristan province has a population of approximately 164 000. The main ethnic group is the Nuristani, with smaller communities of Pashai, Pashtuns, Gujars, Tajiks, and Pashtun. It is located in eastern Afghanistan on the Afghan-Pakistani border. It borders the provinces of Badakhshan, Kunar, Laghman, and Panjshir. The province is divided into eight districts. The villages are isolated from each other, as well as from the district centres. Most of the roads are only travelable by pack animals due to poor road conditions. Nuristan is known as a key support route for numerous insurgents.
In addition to the influential position of the Taliban in the region, ISKP is also reported to be active in the province since 2016. According to UN Security Council, Al Qaeda is also ‘covertly active’ in the province. It is reported that the presence of the Afghan police is limited to district centres.
Five of the districts of Nuristan were categorised by LWJ as contested, while three as under government control or undetermined.
ACLED collected data on 52 incidents in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 0.7 incidents per week), of which 39 coded as ‘battles’, 11 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and 2 as ‘violence against civilians’.
Examples of incidents include clashes between Taliban and Afghan forces, who fought over control of checkpoints and an ALP outpost. Afghan forces were accused of randomly firing at civilians and injuring one in Waygal district in April 2019.
The Taliban also forced a significant number of health centres to close. In August 2019 a polio immunisation campaign was disrupted. Further impact on the population included the closing of polling centres decided by the MoI ahead of the presidential election of September 2019, because Afghan security forces could not ensure their protection.
UNAMA documented 22 civilian casualties (8 deaths and 14 injured) in 2019, representing 13 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was a decrease of 8 % compared to 2018. The leading causes for the civilian casualties were ground engagements, followed by targeted/deliberate killings and non-suicide IEDs.
RS ranked Nuristan in the category of provinces where the number of civilian casualties was between 0 and 25 for the first quarter of 2020; between 0 and 25 civilian casualties were also recorded in the second quarter.
In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 551 persons were displaced from the province of Nuristan, half of them within the province itself, while the other half was headed to Panjshir province. In the same period, 1 404 persons were internally displaced to Nuristan from neighbouring Kunar.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the province of Nuristan, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.25