She died of a broken heart. Attacks near the Defense Ministry, Presidential Palace, and an anti-Taliban humanitarian organization killed and wounded several civilians-one the son of the elderly Ms. Amina. News of her son’s untimely martyr was an emotional shock; Ms. Amina collapsed and died within the hour. Unfortunately, the frequency of similar attacks is more gruesome than even Poe could have imagined. UNAMA reported over 3,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan due to anti-government elements in the first six months of this year alone. Even worse-many of those who died in Kabul were in the wrong place at the wrong time-an Afghani market and shopping malls surrounded the sites of both attacks. Monday’s two attacks are indicative of a larger trend in civilian-related casualties: hopping public markets and shops happen to be in close proximity to military targets. Even the route hearses of high profile Afghani government officials plays a role in determining the number of casualties.
Upon reading of the attacks, my brow furrowed, as if staring at a maze where the route through was so simple, but everyone around me was struggling to make it past the first couple turns. My sense of bewilderment was due in part, surely, to my naive understanding of middle-eastern life; however, I couldn’t help but wonder-who decided to organize the market right next to a high-profile, widely known Taliban target? Why was an anti-Taliban humanitarian organization-clearly a probable target-built in the middle of town? My veins froze, as if doused with ice water, at my next thought. How many lives could have been saved had the market been moved a few blocks over? The solution seemed too simple, the cost of adjustments too low, and the value of lives lost too great, to leave the idea unexplored.
Urban planning is the process of organizing buildings and roadways in order to decrease crime and increase efficiency in larger cities-western cities. The United States and Norway have incorporated concerns about terrorism into the layout of their towns, fortifying building codes with added safety provisions and ensuring emergency transport is secure in case of an attack. Urban planning in high risk middle-eastern areas is practically non-existent; granted, there’s not a lot of planning for high-risk middle-eastern areas in general. However, even a theoretical exploration of middle-eastern urban planning is largely absent from regional planning literature. The reasons why urban planning in the Middle East is necessary are also why no research has been done. Many areas, particularly Afghanistan, are conflict-ridden and have no stable bureaucracy. Without a cooperative and organized government, alternative networks would have to execute plans. Perhaps local religious networks, NGOs, or business chains could carry out suggested reorganization plans. Planning in the Middle East would be more complex than planning in European areas; an investigation of which terror groups are targeting each area and if targeting civilians is a component of the group’s strategy would be necessary in order for any shift in infrastructure to be successful. The frequency of attacks creates another problem-many civilians are numb to the deaths that occur. One man, hand riddled with shrapnel, continues to cut hair in his barbershop the Wednesday after the attack. Life must go on.
Despite complications, the possibility of urban planning must be explored. The term ‘civilian’ transcends the idea of ‘citizen.’ Innocence ties us together. The children, homemakers, and shop keepers that are thrown into war are our neighbors. Expecting the warring groups to abide by the rules of war is naive, and evidence that our global responsibility to protect the civilian has been shirked. We cannot leave any stone unturned, any possible solution unexplored. If we do not value innocent lives enough to explore our options, can we decry war? Can we condemn terrorist organizations for their blatant degradation of civilian life? Omission is complicity. So let us look.
UNAMA Report: http://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/protection_of_civilians_in_armed_conflict_midyear_report_2016_final_english_31_july_2016.pdf
Other Source: https://www.isr.tu-berlin.de/fileadmin/i40/ipz/download/publikationen/graue_reihe/Graue_Reihe_-_Heft_50_-_Urban_Planning_after_Terrorism.pdf