Canadians Mourn the Passing of an Extraordinary Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – 2022): Statements by the Governor General of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada

Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg has learnt with deep sadness that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ( April 21, 1926 – September 8, 2022) has passed away at the age of 96. Like hundreds of millions of people around the world who adored the Queen and what she represented, we deeply mourn her death and pray that she may Rest in Eternal Peace. We have compiled the following piece from numerous sources including Wikipedia ,the Voice of America and a statement on her passing made by the Governor General of Canada. In the coming days, we hope to publish a special piece dedicated to the British Monarchy and its strong historic bond with the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili Muslim community.

Queen Elizabeth was Britain’s longest reigning monarch, and during her reign worked with 15 British prime ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill. She served as head of state for both Labour and Conservative governments in the UK, following the modern royal tradition of remaining neutral on political matters. When the Her Majesty became the Queen in 1952, she was the monarch and head of state of seven independent states: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Over the ensuing years, many countries under British rule became independent and the realm of the monarchy changed. Later, many of the newly independent became republics. Canada along with 14 other nations continued to regard the British monarch as its Head of Statement. With the passing of the Queen, the new sovereign is King Charles.

Queen Elizabeth helped lead her country through the aftermath of World War II, the Cold War, economic booms and busts, strife in Northern Ireland, the creation of the European Union and Brexit. Admired for her dedication to her job, Queen Elizabeth was seen by many Britons as a pillar of strength for the country at a time when the nation was navigating its diminishing world power.

Earning the distinction of Britain’s longest reigning monarch on September 9, 2015, tHer Majesty the Queen characteristically went about her daily duties, which included opening a new railway in Scotland, barely mentioning the distinction. “Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones; my own is no exception,” she said at the ceremony.

As a young royal, Princess Elizabeth was placed directly in line for the throne when her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry an American divorcee. Her father, George VI, inherited the role of head of state, and led the monarchy from 1936 to his death in 1952. Princess Elizabeth was on a tour in Kenya when she learned of her father’s death. She was just 25 years old at the time and only four years into her marriage to navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince, whom she wed at age 21. Married to Prince Philip, for 73 years, the prince was often by the queen’s side, or the two paces behind at official events that is required by royal protocol. The Queen hailed Prince Philip after his death as her “strength and stay” throughout their marriage and her reign. The couple had four children, Charles, born in 1948 (who now becomes the King), Anne, born in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.

Article continues below

VOICE OF AMERICA: IN PHOTOS – THE LIFE OF BRITAIN’S QUEEN ELIZABETH II

Queen Elizabeth II dies at age 96, Simerg, News
Please click on photograph for Voice of America’s special photo gallery on the life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (d. September 8, 2022).
A rare photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with Maryland governor Theodore McKeldin (right) and University of Maryland president Wilson Homer "Bull" Elkins (left), at a Maryland Terrapins vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels football game in College Park, Maryland. Photograph: Leffler, Warren K. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington.
A rare photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with Maryland governor Theodore McKeldin (right) and University of Maryland president Wilson Homer “Bull” Elkins (left), at a Maryland Terrapins vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels football game in College Park, Maryland. Photograph: Leffler, Warren K. Created/Published on October 19, 1957. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington.

Supporters of the queen say she was instrumental in helping the monarchy to survive in Britain when the institution had been abandoned in many countries around the world. Known for her pragmatism and unshowy dedication to the job, the queen came to personify Britain in the eyes of many. Through her steadfast presence at countless events representing her country, she earned the respect of large majorities in Britain as well as popularity abroad, becoming one of the world’s most recognizable figures. Britain’s Express newspaper reported in 2020 that the Queen had traveled more than a million miles, calling her “the most traveled head of state of all time.” The report said she had visited 110 countries, with her longest trip a 44,000-mile tour of the Commonwealth in 1953.

In 2002, the Queen traveled more than 40,000 miles to celebrate her Golden Jubilee — 50 years on throne — including visits to the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as 70 towns and cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Some of her travels were diplomatic milestones for Britain, including her visit to West Germany in 1965, the first official visit by a British royal to Germany since 1913. The trip marked the 20th anniversary of the end of WWII. In 1986, the queen became the first visit British monarch to visit the Chinese mainland, and 25 years later she became the first British monarch in 100 years to travel to the Republic of Ireland.

She earned praise for her speech in Ireland in 2011, saying that her visit “reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.”

The queen was a patron of more than 500 charities in Britain. Research from the Charities Aid Foundation released in 2012, when the monarch celebrated 60 years on the throne, showed that Queen Elizabeth had helped organizations raise nearly $2 billion.

Canadians may note that the Queen’s reign of 70 years encompassed the mandates of 12 Canadian prime ministers and 13 governors general. She undertook 22 official visits to Canada, where she professed her love for our county again and again. She was a steadfast presence during some of the most tumultuous times of our lives, and most recently gave comfort to so many during the pandemic.

We reproduce below statements issued by the Governor General of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada

____________________

Statement by the Governor General of Canada

September 8, 2022

Today, my husband, Whit, and I join all Canadians in mourning the passing of our extraordinary sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Her Majesty The Queen was, in equal measures, compassionate, dedicated, humble, engaged and wise. She believed in service to her people above all, and inspired so many with her dedication to the Crown.

For many of us, we have only ever known one Queen.

When I was growing up, my grandmother revered The Queen, as did so many in the Arctic. She would tell us stories about Her Majesty, about her role and her commitment.

Her Majesty’s warm welcome when we spent time with her earlier this year was a profound moment in our lives and a memory we will cherish forever.

Her reign encompassed the mandates of 12 Canadian prime ministers and 13 governors general. On 22 occasions, she undertook official visits to Canada, where she professed her love for our county again and again. She was a steadfast presence during some of the most tumultuous times of our lives, and most recently gave comfort to so many during the pandemic.

On behalf of all Canadians, I offer deepest condolences to the members of the Royal Family, who grieve the loss of a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Mary Simon

____________________

Live Statement from the Governor General

September 8, 2022

Hello, bonjour, [Inuktitut greeting].

Today, we mourn the loss of our Queen of Canada, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In countless languages around the world, people are sharing solemn words of remembrance. Today, in Inuktitut, I add to these tributes.

[In Inuktitut] On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my condolences to Her Majesty’s family. We honour her memory. 

On behalf of all Canadians, my husband, Whit, and I offer our condolences to the Royal Family on the loss, not just of a queen, but of a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.  

Her Majesty cared about people, about our well-being. This was clear every time we spoke. She cared about Canada, and all the unique stories that make up our beautiful country.

She learned our stories as she visited every corner of Canada during her many Royal Tours. She called Canada her “second home.”

Her Majesty celebrated our achievements, reassured us in difficult times and inspired us with her steadfast dedication to service.

Until her final days, she remained engaged and committed to her country, to the Commonwealth and to her family. With her passing, we mourn the end of an era.

I’m proud to have represented Her Majesty as governor general. Following my appointment, Her Majesty said to me: “be gentle with yourself.” I’ve come to understand her words to mean that while we should work hard on the issues that matter, we should also take time to pause. To be patient. To lead with understanding and respect.

I can see the wisdom in these words.

To the entire Royal Family and to a Commonwealth in mourning, our thoughts are with you.

The memories of The Queen will always have a place here, in Canada. Her second home.

Thank you. Merci. MiigwetchNakurmiik.

____________________

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada

September 8, 2022
Ottawa, Ontario

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we learned of the passing of Canada’s longest-reigning Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“For most Canadians, we have known no other Sovereign. Queen Elizabeth II was a constant presence in our lives. Time and again, Her Majesty marked Canada’s modern history. Over the course of 70 years and twenty-three Royal Tours, Queen Elizabeth II saw this country from coast to coast to coast and was there for our major, historical milestones.

“She would proclaim ‘it was good to be home’ when returning to her beloved Canada. She was indeed at home here, and Canadians never ceased to return her affection.

“Her Majesty vowed to devote her life to the service of the Commonwealth and its people. On behalf of all Canadians, I thank Queen Elizabeth II for honouring this vow and for a lifetime of service.

“Her Majesty’s reign spanned so many decades – a period when we came into our own as a confident, diverse, and forward-looking country. It is her wisdom, compassion, and warmth that we will always remember and cherish.

“Today, a page has not only been turned, but a chapter in our shared history has drawn to a close. I know Her Majesty’s service to Canada and Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country’s history. The coming days will be a period of mourning for Canadians, as it will be for all Commonwealth citizens, ending with a national day of mourning when a commemorative service will be held to mark the passing of our Sovereign.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I express our heartfelt condolences to members of the Royal Family during this most difficult time.”

Date posted: September 8, 2022 (16:42 EDT.)
Last updated: September 8, 2022 (19:00, EDT, added Governor General’s live statement.)

________________

We invite our readers to submit their thoughts and tributes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who has passed away at the age of 96. Please click on Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters. Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com

Pakistan’s Deluge: NASA Story Compares Satellite Images from August 4 and 28; and Links to Aga Khan University and Focus Humanitarian Donation Pages

Featured Image at top of post: The floods in Pakistan have turned plains into seas. The featured image shows the district of Qambar on August 4, 2022 (left) and on August 28 (right). The following piece has been adapted from the NASA website. To read the article on NASA that contains additional information and features, please click Devastating Floods in Pakistan – Ed.]

Story by SARA E. PRATT
NASA Earth Observatory Images by JOSHUA STEVENS

using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCEGIBS/Worldview, and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).

Since mid-June 2022, Pakistan has been drenched by extreme monsoon rains that have led to the country’s worst flooding in a decade. According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, the floods have affected more than 33 million people and destroyed or damaged more than 1 million houses. At least 1,100 people were killed by floodwaters that inundated tens of thousands of square kilometers of the country.

Satellite Image August 4, 2022

The Floods in Pakistan Satellite Images from NASA

Satellite Image August 28, 2022

The Floods in Pakistan Satellite Images from NASA

The false-color images above were acquired by the Operational Land Imagers aboard the Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 satellites on August 4 and 28, respectively. The images combine shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red light (bands 6-5-4) to better distinguish flood waters (deep blue) beyond their natural channels.

The worst flooding occurred along the Indus River in the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh. The provinces of Balochistan and Sindh have so far this year received five to six times their 30-year average rainfall. Most of that arrived in summer monsoon rains.

Across the country, about 150 bridges and 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) of roads have been destroyed, according to ReliefWeb. More than 700,000 livestock and 2 million acres of crops and orchards have also been lost.

Satellite Image August 31, 2022

The Floods in Pakistan Satellite Images from NASA

The image above (the white rectangle denotes the area shown in the Landsat overview in the previous images), acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-20 satellite on August 31, 2022, shows the extent of flooding in the region. The image uses a combination of near-infrared and visible light to make it easier to see where rivers are out of their banks and spread across floodplains.

The immense volume of rain- and meltwater inundated the dams, reservoirs, canals, and channels of the country’s large and highly developed irrigation system. On August 31, the Indus River System Authority authorized some releases from dams because the water flowing in threatened to exceed the capacity of several reservoirs.

In the southern reaches of the Indus watershed, the deluge has turned plains into seas. The following two detailed images show the districts of Qambar and Shikarpur in Sindh province, which from July 1 to August 31 received 500 percent more rainfall than average.

Qambar and Shikarpur Districts on August 4 and August 28

The Floods in Pakistan Satellite Images from NASA
Qambar on August 4, 2022 (left) and on August 28 (right). Also shown as feature image at top of this post
The Floods in Pakistan Satellite Images from NASA
Shikarpur on August 4, 2022 (left) and on August 28 (right).

The effect of the monsoon rains has been compounded by the continued melting of Pakistan’s 7,000 glaciers. The country holds the most glacial ice found outside the polar regions. Climate warming and recent heat waves have precipitated several glacial-outburst floods. In the rugged northern part of the country, the combined rain and meltwater has turned slopes into hill torrents.

On August 30, the Pakistani government declared a national emergency and, with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called for international aid for humanitarian relief efforts.

Pakistan last faced such dramatic and widespread flooding in 2010.

Date posted: September 2, 2022.
Last updated: September 2, 2022 (6 AM EDT, see correction note below)

Correction: The title in the original version of the post suggested that all the images shown above were taken by NASA satellites. As is very clear in the story, the images are from more than one source, and the title has been revised accordingly. The editor apologizes for the oversight.

___________________

CONTRIBUTORS
(profiles and profile photos from NASA website)

Sara Pratt NASA Pakistan Floods Story
Sara Pratt

Sara Pratt has been a science writer for the NASA Earth Observatory since 2021. She is a former senior editor of EARTH Magazine, and her work has appeared in Eos, Oceanus, NOVA, and Discover. She also has editorial experience in science educational publishing. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in geology and environmental studies from Penn and dual master’s degrees in earth & environmental science journalism from Columbia. She enjoys writing about any aspect of earth science but is most interested in coastal and marine geology, oceanography, and climate science.

Sara lives in Colorado, where she enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, and touring the geology of the West and the National Parks with her husband and two children.

Joshua Stevens NASA Pakistan Floods Satellite Images
Joshua Stevens

Since 2015, Joshua Stevens has been the lead visualizer of the NASA Earth Observatory. He has researched and taught cartographic design, geovisual analytics, and remote sensing for more than a decade. He was the lead author of the 2012 update to the online geography textbook, Mapping Our Changing World. His work has been featured by a variety of media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel.

Joshua was an NSF IGERT Fellow in big data social science at The Pennsylvania State University, where he pursued a Ph.D. in geography. He also earned a master’s in geography and a bachelor’s degree in geographic information science at Michigan State University. Joshua is a member of the North American Cartographic Information Society, and he enjoys geocaching, photography, and spending time with his wife and two children.

_________________________

RELATED ARTICLES AND LINKS TO DONATION PAGES

1. The Aga Khan University: Flood Response Fund

2. Donate Now: Focus Humanitarian Canada; USA; and UK and Europe

3. The Ismaili: Jamati and AKDN institutions mobilise in response to Pakistan floods

4. Focus Humanitarian’s Response to Flooding in Pakistan

5. Simerg: Aga Khan University Sets Up Pakistan Flood Response Fund as UN Secretary General Declares “Pakistan is Awash in Suffering”

_________________________

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers; please click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Insights from Around the World: UNHCR on the Mistreatment of non-European Refugees; and The Guardian on the Racist Coverage of Ukraine

Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT

Rockets have been “raining down” on Ukraine’s cities and hundreds of people have been killed or injured since the Russian military offensive began. On March 1, 2022, the UN Secretary-General launched a $1.7 billion flash appeal to provide urgently-needed assistance. In this photo, spent pieces of a rocket lie next to a playground, with military operations ongoing in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: © UNICEF/Andrii Marienko/UNIAN

“….the very concept of providing refuge is not and should not be based on factors such as physical proximity or skin color, and for a very good reason. If our sympathy is activated only for welcoming people who look like us or pray like us, then we are doomed to replicate the very sort of narrow, ignorant nationalism that war promotes in the first place.” — Moustafa Bayoumi, The Guardian

UNHCR Dismayed at Mistreatment of non-European Refugees

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has expressed dismay over reports that foreigners fleeing Ukraine amid its war with Russia are experiencing mistreatment and pleaded for more humanity and compassion for non-Europeans and refugees from other nations. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke out about reports that have emerged of discrimination against non-Ukrainian or non-European refugees at some entry points and people’s reference to them using discriminatory or racist terminology. He quoted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as saying that “there should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans,” as all are at risk.

Refugees entering Poland from Ukraine at the Medyka border crossing point. Photo: © UNHCR/Chris Melzer

The Guardian – They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us’: the racist coverage of Ukraine

By MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI

Moustafa Bayoumi has analyzed the racism factor in the way the media has been reporting the refugee situation and asks: “Are Ukrainians more deserving of sympathy than Afghans and Iraqis?” And he observes, “Many seem to think so,” based on his in-depth look at what has been said and written in the media as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee Ukraine to seek protection in neighbouring countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a week ago.

“What all these petty, superficial differences – from owning cars and clothes to having Netflix and Instagram accounts – add up to is not real human solidarity for an oppressed people. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s tribalism. These comments point to a pernicious racism that permeates today’s war coverage and seeps into its fabric like a stain that won’t go away. The implication is clear: war is a natural state for people of color, while white people naturally gravitate toward peace” — Moustafa Bayoumi, The Guardian

Moustafa Bayoumi, is professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York and contributing opinion writer at Guardian US as well as author of the award-winning books How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror. Please read Bayoumi’s complete article in The Guardian by clicking They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us’: the racist coverage of Ukraine.

Date posted: March 3, 2022.

______________________

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Insights from Around the World: The 1992-97 Civil War in Tajikistan and the Architecture of International Involvement in the Peace Process

“Given the great moral authority of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan over the Ismaili population of Badakhshan, Special Envoy Piriz-Ballon [of UN Secretary General Boutro Boutro Ghali], and Special Representative Gerd Merrem [of Germany] consulted him on issues related to the peace process. His visits to the country, informal mediating role and moderating influence significantly contributed to the success of the peace process. The Aga Khan Foundation made major contributions to alleviating the humanitarian crisis, particularly in the eastern part of the country [i.e Gorno-Badakhshan, see map, below].” — Vladimir Goryayev (note: words in square brackets inserted for clarity — ed.)

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

Some readers, and especially those engaged in the research and study of Tajikistan, may already be familiar with the details of the civil war that broke out in 1992 following Tajikistan’s withdrawal from the Soviet Union on September 9, 1991. The civil war was at its peak during its first year and dragged on for five years, with different interest groups vying for control of the new state. An estimated 20,000 to 100,000 people were killed by June 1997 and about 10 to 20 percent of the population were internally displaced. The war devastated the country.

Very little, however, may be known about the peace process that was underway during this period of civil unrest. In the Accord issue of April 2001, published by Conciliation Resources, numerous authors take an in-depth look at what was an exceptionally well-coordinated peace process that involved local civil society, the international community and a newly established Commission for National Reconciliation. The 100 page PDF publication, “Politics of Compromise: The Tajikistan Peace Process” edited by Kamoludin Abdullaev and Catherine Barnes may be downloaded by clicking HERE.

Story continues below

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.
Map of Tajikistan with surrounding countries from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas. Click on map for enlargement.

In a chapter entitled “Architecture of International Involvement in the Tajik Peace Process,” from which the quote on Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the beginning of this post is taken, author Vladimir Goryayev examines the role of regional intergovernmental organisations, international NGOs, regional peacekeepers, and the UN’s special envoys, departments and humanitarian agencies played in the peace process. He concludes by setting out the widely acknowledged strengths of the Tajik model of international involvement as well as some lesser known problems with it. Please click HERE to download Vladimir Goryayev PDF article or read the article by visiting THIS PAGE.

Date posted: March 1, 2022.

_____________________

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

____________________

Featured photo at top of post

Aga Khan in Tajikistan, the Ismaili, simerg,
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured in Tajikistan during his first historic visit to the country in May 1995. Photo: The Ismaili, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visit to Central Asia, 22-31 May 1995.
A man uses a makeshift carrier for providing tea drinking service at Kabul's Kote Sangi commercial hub sector of the city

Afghanistan Update: Misery and Humanitarian Crisis in Country is Overshadowed by Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine – Experts Call for Lifesaving Assistance to Afghanistan

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

For the past week, the world’s attention has dramatically shifted from the misery that Afghanistan is facing to the invasion of Ukraine by the armed forces of Russia. The Ukraine war is indeed very very serious and frightening, especially with Russian President Putin asking his country’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on high alert. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian residents are escaping from the war, and showing up as refugees in neighbouring countries. While this tragedy in Eastern Europe unfolds, we should also remain focused on the humanitarian crisis that is in Afghanistan.

Two countries facing humanitarian crisis — Ukraine and Afghanistan (both circled). Image: Map adapted from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

In addition to our special correspondent in Kabul sending us his reports in the form of Letter from Afghanistan (please see Simerg’s Special Afghanistan Page), we also rely on authentic and accurate coverage of Afghanistan from the world media. In this respect, we find the Voice of America (VOA) to be a reliable and very useful source of information through reports that are produced on its website from journalists such as Ayaz Gul in Islamabad, Ayesha Tanzeem, who heads VOA’s Pakistan and Afghanistan bureau in Islamabad, and Lisa Schlein in Geneva. They are fair and factual in their news and commentary about the situation in the country.

To keep our readers up to date about the various aspects of life in Afghanistan, we share below a compilation from stories that appeared on VOA this past week, between February 23 and February 27, 2022. Readers may access VOA’s full coverage as well as special episodes on Afghanistan by clicking on VOA: Central and South Asia.

1. Experts: More Than Half of Afghanistan’s Population Need Lifesaving Assistance

People reach out to receive bread, in Kabul, Afghanistan, January. 31, 2022. Photo: VOA file photo

By LISA SCHLEIN, VOA

Humanitarian experts warn that more than 24 million people, or 59% of Afghanistan’s population, are living on starvation diets and forced to take extreme measures to survive. Eight senior emergency experts from U.N. and non-governmental organizations recently concluded a five-day mission to Afghanistan. They describe the level of humanitarian needs as unprecedented. They say they are shocked at the enormity of human suffering they witnessed. The experts say many Afghans will not survive the dire conditions under which they are living without international support. And this, they note is severely lacking. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) reports only 13 percent of the United Nations’ $4.44 billion appeal for this year has been funded. OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told VOA the competition for donor support from a myriad of countries including Ukraine, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is intense and growing. Nevertheless, he said the plight of the Afghan people must not and cannot be ignored.

“People’s reserves are exhausted, forcing many into harmful coping mechanisms to survive, including child marriages and child labor. Women and girls in particular are affected with their human rights, participation in society, their ability to work, and access to education under threat,” he said. Laerke said the number of people requiring lifesaving assistance has risen 30% since the Taliban takeover of the country in August. He said the consequences of not responding to their needs are very stark. “It simply means that women who are pregnant will not have a hospital to go to for giving birth…We talk about girls and their access to school but here — this means that nobody goes to school… Peoples’ need for nutrition and food will not be met. People simply will not have enough to eat. They will starve,” he said. Laerke said donors’ fear that their money will go to the Taliban and not toward helping the Afghan people is unwarranted. He said all the money goes to the U.N. and private humanitarian organizations for which it is intended. Over the past months, he says aid agencies have been able to scale up their operations without interference to provide life-saving assistance to people in desperate need. (VOA full report HERE)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

2. All Public Universities in Afghanistan Open to Male, Female Students

Students attend a class in the Badakshan University after Afghanistan’s main universities reopened, in Fayzabad on Feb. 26, 2022. Photo: AP via VOA

By AYAZ GUL, VOA

Public universities in Afghanistan’s colder areas, including Kabul, reopened Saturday, February 26, 2022, to both male and female students six months after the Islamist Taliban returned to power. The reopening marked the resumption of education in all of about 40 state-run universities in Afghanistan after Taliban authorities allowed university students earlier this month to return to their classes in provinces with a warm climate. The opening day at the country’s oldest and biggest university in the Afghan capital as well as campuses elsewhere was marred by low attendance and a lack of teaching staff. University administrations enforced gender segregation, including staggered operating hours and separate classes for men and women in accordance with the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam. Women must also wear hijabs. The Taliban banned co-education after taking control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15 [2021].

Students’ reaction was mixed after their first day back on Saturday. “I am very happy today as the Islamic Emirate reopened our universities,” Razia Kamal, a female student, was quoted by the Afghan TOLO news channel as saying. The Islamic Emirate is the official name of the Taliban government. In Kabul, student Haseenat said campus life for women was now very different than it was before. “There is no cafeteria anymore … we are not allowed to go to the university’s courtyard.”

“I am happy that the university resumed … we want to continue our studies,” said an English major who asked to be identified only as Basira. There was also a shortage of lecturers, she said, adding: “Maybe because some have left the country.” Tens of thousands of mostly educated Afghans have left the country fearing Taliban reprisals since the United States and other Western nations withdrew their troops in late August after a 20-year occupation.

In the western Afghan city of Herat, students also complained about a lack of tutors. “Some of our professors have also left the country, but we are happy that the university gates are open,” said Parisa Narwan, an arts major. The Taliban allowed males and females to resume education in some 150 private universities in the country in September under a gender-segregated classroom system. But they took time to reopen public universities, citing financial constraints and a lack of separate classrooms for men and women in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.

“It’s a positive move albeit late,” said Mohsin Amin, an Afghan policy analyst and researcher. “It’s of utmost importance to enhance the quality of education in all universities across Afghanistan for girls and address the scarcity of female teachers as well as professors.

“High schools for girls in all provinces should resume as soon as possible,” Amin told VOA. While the Taliban allowed boys to rejoin secondary schools in early September, most Afghan girls are still waiting for permission to resume class. Taliban officials have pledged to allow all girls to be back in school in late March, dismissing fears they intend to ban female education, as happened during the hardline group’s previous rule from 1996-2001. (VOA full report HERE)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

3. US to Allow All Commercial Transactions with Afghanistan

A man uses a makeshift carrier for providing tea drinking service at Kabul's Kote Sangi commercial hub sector of the city
A man uses a makeshift carrier for providing tea drinking service at Kabul’s Kote Sangi commercial hub sector of the city. Sunday May 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

By VOA NEWS

The U.S. Treasury on Friday [February 25, 2022] issued a new general license authorizing all commercial transactions with Afghanistan’s governing institutions, expanding recently announced exemptions from sanctions against the Taliban and the Haqqani network. The new license, the seventh issued by Treasury in recent months, allows “all transactions involving Afghanistan and its governing institutions that would otherwise be prohibited by U.S. sanctions,” the Treasury Department said.

The action came after talks between the Treasury Department and private sector executives doing business in Afghanistan and is similar to a series of sanctions exemptions granted in recent months to nongovernmental organizations. “Our action today recognizes that in light of this dire crisis, it is essential that we address concerns that sanctions inhibit commercial and financial activity while we continue to deny financial resources to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other malign actors,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. Wide-ranging U.S. economic sanctions against the Taliban date to their first time in power in the 1990s. However, in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the Treasury Department has issued a series of sanctions exemptions to allow Afghanistan to cope with a teetering economy and a humanitarian crisis. “There are too many Afghans starving today, too many Afghans who are cold; we all need to act faster,” a senior administration official told reporters during a press call announcing the general license. (VOA full report HERE)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

4. New Wave of COVID-19, Measles Outbreak Stretch Fragile Afghan Health System

An Afghan patient infected with COVID-19 lies on a bed in the intensive care unit of the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 7, 2022. Photo: AP/via VOA

By AYAZ GUL, VOA

Aid groups warned Wednesday [February 23, 2022] that a spike in COVID-19 infections and an alarming measles outbreak have compounded the health emergencies in Afghanistan, stretching the impoverished, war-torn country’s fragile health care system. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement that urgent global support, including health and testing services, as well as vaccinations, was needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that is surging across Afghanistan.

“A new wave is hitting Afghanistan hard. Testing is inadequate, and the World Health Organization reports that almost half of tested samples are coming back positive, indicating an alarming spread of the virus,” the statement added.

It said the underfunded and understaffed national health system was struggling to cope with the surge in cases. Dozens of COVID-19 health facilities have closed because they didn’t have enough medicines, essential medical supplies and funds to pay the utilities and health workers’ salaries.

The aid group said that fewer than 10 of the country’s 37 public COVID-19 health facilities remained functional, and that they were unable to keep up with demand. Only 10% of the country’s estimated population of 40 million is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Mawlawi Mutiul Haq Khales, the acting president of Afghan Red Crescent, stressed the need for increasing the number of functional health facilities so that pressure can be eased on the few functioning hospitals.

“As the number of COVID-19 infections increases from cities to remote corners of the country, the international community needs to open up the doors to support critical health care, testing and other essential services before it’s too late for the people of Afghanistan,” Khales said. The IFRC noted in its statement that the measles outbreak has infected thousands and killed dozens of people in the last month in Afghanistan.

“The measles outbreak is alarming since Afghanistan is in the middle of one of the worst droughts and food crises in decades, leaving children malnourished and far more vulnerable to the highly contagious disease,” said Necephor Mghendi, IFRC’s country head.

Doctors Without Borders, an international charity known by its French acronym MSF, said in a separate statement that most of its programs, including those in southern Helmand and western Herat provinces, have seen high numbers of patients. It described the malnutrition rates as concerning.

“MSF is treating a high number of patients with measles in our projects in Helmand and Herat. Our teams are concerned about how the situation will progress unless more children are vaccinated against the disease,” the charity said. The ripple effect of long-running sanctions on the Taliban and the financial measures against the new rulers in Afghanistan are being felt nationwide, according to MSF. (VOA full report HERE)

Date posted: February 28, 2022.

___________________

Please also see VOA Special Project: Afghan Families Begin a New Chapter.

Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Letter from Afghanistan [6] – Simerg’s Special Correspondent Visits Ismaili Families in Sia Sang, a Remote Village in Wardak, Central Afghanistan

[This is our Kabul based special correspondent’s sixth report to provide the global Ismaili Jamat and our readers with reliable information regarding recent development in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. His previous letters can be read by clicking on the following links 1. August 26 2021, 2. August 29 2021, 3. September 5 2021, 4. December 4 2021 and 5. December 5 2021 — Ed.]

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN

FEBRUARY 13, 2022

Ismailis in Remote Villages Face Hardships Due to Meagre Food Reserves and Difficult Health Conditions: Local Jamati Institutions Have Failed to Meet Their Needs Over the Years

Please click on photos for enlargement

Sia sang- Bai Qobi - houses were once inhabited by Ismailis,
These houses in Sia sang — Bai Qobi — were once inhabited by Ismailis. They left the country upon the first reign of the Taliban. The houses are now occupied by Twelver Hazaras who are involved in farming activities in this village. Photo: Simerg Special Correspondent.

BY SIMERG’S SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT IN KABUL

Dear Jamats:

In my effort to continue to provide the world wide Ismaili Jamat with updates and insights about the latest developments in Afghanistan, I took the initiative to visit small villages in the remotest corners of the country. This report is based on interviews I conducted with five Ismailis in Sia Sang village, a remote village located in mountainous areas of Hesa-e-Awal Behsood, a district in the central province of Wardak (see map, below). I visited this gregarious small village which is mainly inhabited by Hazara ethnic minority. According to my information, once over 80 Ismaili families lived in Sia Sang. Now, only a small fraction of Ismailis, six households, live altogether. The vast majority that remain in the village are Twelver Shiites (Ithnasharies). The people of Afghanistan face an uncertain future, unemployment, poverty, hunger and drought since the Taliban takeover of the country on August 15, 2021.

The Ismaili villagers I met are surrounded by high mountains and hills and have been adversely affected by the recent upheavals as well. They are struggling with the current financial and economic crisis looming across the country. Afghanistan’s economy was facing severe challenges, and the international support was starting to wane even before the collapse of former western-backed government. The US congressional research noted that this past year 90 percent of Afghanistan’s population lived on less than US$ 2.00 a day, and warned that the loss of American support would weaken one of the world’s smallest economy.

Concerns about food insecurity are mounting and a looming drought is expected to make matters worse. The prices of food and other basic goods have soared and even doubled after the regime change in the country.

Story continues below

Wardak, Bamyan and Kabul Maps Simerg
Enlarged map of the Afghan provinces of Bamyan, Kabul and Wardak. The author of this piece visited the district of Hisah-ye Awal-e Bishud (circled) where the remote village of Sia Sang is located at an elevation of 3,117 meters (10226 ft) above sea level. The current daily minimum and maximum temperatures for the week of February 14, 2022 in Sia Sang will be in the range minus 17°C to minus 6°C. The map has been adapted from the provincial map of Afghanistan at the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas. For full provincial map of the country, click HERE – it will open in new tab.

MEALS HALVED, AND FARMERS LACK ACCESS TO MARKETS

According to the local Ismailis I met, they have to consume half of the food that they used to previously. For decades, these Ismaili farmers survived on stored wheat from their summer harvest and income from selling of farm animals and potato in the market. This year’s farming yielded good crops. However, with little access to the national market, they were unable to sell their agricultural products at a fair selling price. Unlike urban population, the farmers residing in rural areas of the country do not have a certain source of income other than agricultural production. There is no orderly and regular transportation system. Thus they are unable to take their family members in critical condition to a hospital. They have difficulty in purchasing food and other basic goods from the market.

Due to lack of access to a permanent and established market to procure food, and necessary goods and items, the local villagers in this part of the country have to take a trip to the neighboring province of Bamyan or the capital Kabul. Transportation fee, 3000 AFN (US$ 30.00), is high and the impoverished community settled here cannot afford paying such a high amount.

Story continues below

A boy standing in front of mud houses in Sia Sang Dasht- e- Rashak. Photo: Simerg Special Correspondent.
A boy standing in front of mud houses in Sia Sang Dasht- e- Rashak. Photo: Simerg Special Correspondent.

INADEQUATE HEALTH CARE AND TRANSPORTATION

Lack of access to basic health care services has made the living condition challenging. The closest local health care centers are three to four hours away by foot from this village, making it impossible to take their patients on time. The services provided by the health care centers do not enjoy high quality. So, they have to take the critically ill patients to Kabul or neighbouring Bamyan (see map above).

One Jamati member, Ahamad, told me, “I am alone and live only with my wife, I have no other family member to take care of me and my house. God forbid that if one of us gets sick, we must travel to Bamyan for treatment. So, who will take care of my house and belongings?”

The main highway passing through this village connects the central provinces with the capital Kabul. This highway is blocked to the traffic every year in winter due to heavy snowfall and storms that makes travel very difficult or virtually non-existent for several days.

Access to basic education is limited for children in this community. The nearest high school is one hour away from this locality. The former western backed government were in favor of girls’ education and encouraged the local population to send their girls to school. Thus, even with the Taliban ruling the country, education is not barred for girls in this community. The social perception towards education in this community specifically for girls is viewed in a positive light.

Story continues below

Sia Sang Ismaili Jamatkhana, Afghanistan.
The entrance of the local Jamatkhana in Sia Sang. A signboard hung above the main gate of the Jamatkhana reads as, Jamatkhana Shia Ismaili, Sia Sang village at the center, surrounded by Allah, Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain. Photo: Simerg Special Correspondent.

PASSIONATE YOUTHS SEEK RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

This local Ismaili community deems religious education to be of the highest importance and absolutely necessary for their children. They have asked the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) and other responsible authorities in the Aga Khan National Council for Afghanistan to open a Baitul Ilm center (BUI). There are more than 13 Ismaili teens who need to acquire religious education and the villagers had many times requested the local ITREB board based in Bamyan to open a BUI center for this community. The local Jamat was very keen and showed passion for starting such a center, but no one addressed this issue and showed interest in this regard, said Ali, one of the local Ismailis I interviewed.

NO DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS OVER THE YEARS

It is extremely sad to report that no development project has been undertaken by either the government or by other NGOs including the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies within the course of the past twenty years in this village. “Only a power station project had been initiated by Ismaili local council based in Bamyan province,” said Muhammad, another Jamati member I interviewed.

Story continues below

Snowfall in Sia sang - Dawlat murad -following a storm. Photo. Simerg Special Correspondent.
Snow in Sia Sang – Dawlat murad – following a snowstorm. Photo: Simerg Special Correspondent.

CONFLICTS WITH NEIGHBOURING NOMADS

Forty years of war and devastation have inflicted a major toll on infrastructure, economy and livelihood of its population. Civilians are the main victims and pay heavy price for instability and violence. Like other parts of the nation, this small Ismaili community is also concerned about insecurity and conflict in the future. Pashtun nomads used to come and graze their herds and camels on pastures in Hazarajat — the central parts of Afghanistan — during the summer. Many bloody conflicts had taken place between Hazara villagers and Pashtun nomads prior to collapse of US backed republic. “We are very worried about the future conflict and return of Pashtun nomads during the summer,” said Juma one of the local Ismaili interviewees. “They used to come and graze their flocks peacefully. But this year it is not clear what they will do to our farms,” he added.

A PLEA TO INSTITUTIONS AND JAMAT

The majority of interviewees agree that the economic catastrophe and collapse caused by the recent changes has negatively impacted their life and financial positions. They expect the AKDN and other aid organizations to help them and distribute food and other relief aid packages. They have enormous challenges and are very worried.

I again repeat my previous calls to Jamati institutions and the AKDN as well as Jamats around the world to go beyond their normal call of duty and involve themselves in action that will improve the situation of the Jamat and the citizens of Afghanistan. I am afraid the plight of Ismailis in some remote villages is not being addressed adequately, and I urge you not to be passive and indifferent to our well-being.

I look forward to submitting more letters to Simerg for everyone’s attention and consideration.

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: February 13, 2022.

________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below OR click Leave a Comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please note that Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also, visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. The editor of the 3 websites, Malik, may be contacted at the email address mmerchant@barakah.com.

Letter from Afghanistan [5] – In Meeting with AKDN Representative, Governor of Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province Encourages Network to Continue its Socio-Economic Contributions in the Province

[This is our special correspondent’s fifth report from Kabul to provide the global Ismaili Jamat and our readers with reliable information regarding recent development in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Read the first four letters HERE – August 26, HERE – August 29, HERE – September 5, 2021 and HERE – December 4, 2021 — Ed.]

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN

Monday, December 5, 2021

Click on images for enlargements

Map of Afghanistan with provinces, Simerg
Provincial map of Afghanistan. The Bamyan province where the meeting between the province’s governor and AKDN representative took place is highlighted in red. Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces The provinces of Afghanistan are the primary administrative divisions. Each province encompasses a number of districts or usually over 1,000 villages. Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

Dear Jamats:

I am pleased to report that Mr. Akbar Ali Pesnani, the special envoy of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Afghanistan, met with the governor for Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province, Mr. Abdullah Sarhady on December 5, 2021. Mr. Sarhady thanked the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and its agencies for their contribution and service in the Bamyan province of Afghanistan, and asked AKDN to continue its services in education, health care, agriculture and microfinance in the province. Additionally, he pleaded to the envoy to extend its assistance on poverty alleviation, higher education and infrastructure. This meeting was reported by official media sources.

Afghanistan Bamyan Province governor with AKDN rep, Simerg
AKDN’s representative in Afghanistan, Mr. Akbar Ali Pesnani (left), meets with the governor of the province of Bamyan, Mr. Abdullah Sarhady. Bamyan Province is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, located in the central highlands of the country (see map above). Photo: Facebook page of governor’s media office.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pesnani thanked the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan for its collaborations with the AKDN agencies and reaffirmed his commitment on continuing and furthering the agency’s efforts on health care, education, habitation and infrastructure. 

The aim of his visit was to visit the Bamyan provincial hospital, and meet with AKDN agency’s local representatives, Ismaili elders and leaders as well as members of the project teams responsible for the projects undertaken by the agency.

Afghanistan Bamyan province governor with AKDN
AKDN’s representative in Afghanistan, Mr. Akbar Ali Pesnani (left), meets with the governor of the province of Bamyan, Mr. Abdullah Sarhady. Bamyan Province is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, located in the central highlands of the country (see map above). Photo: Facebook page of governor’s media office.

The governor asked the AKDN agencies to extend its contribution and efforts on increasing the capacity of provincial hospital, providing health care in local clinics, supporting the educational sector, implementing of development projects and investments on key infrastructure of the province. 

As a member of the Ismaili Jamat in Afghanistan, this meeting highlights the importance the Islamic Emirate attaches to the work that has been carried out by the Ismaili Imamat over the past several decades in Afghanistan, and look forward to the progress of all peoples of Afghanistan and our Jamat under the new Taliban regime in the months and years to come. I offer my congratulations to the Jamat in Afghanistan and around the world on this happy occasion.

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: December 5, 2021.

________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. Please note that Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Letter from Afghanistan [4] – Young Ismaili Activist Shares Her Hopes and Concerns About the Future in Afghanistan

[This is our special correspondent’s fourth letter from Kabul to provide the global Ismaili Jamat with reliable information regarding recent development of the living conditions of the Jamat in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Read the first three letters HERE – August 26, HERE – August 29 and HERE – September 5, 2021. We advise readers to note that in some cases the same information may be repeated in multiple reports — Ed. ]

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Afghanistan map annotated
Map of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. The major international border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Turkham (Tor Kham) border, mentioned by our correspondent in his post, below, is circled in red. Known as the Grand Trunk Road, the road connects Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Please click on map for enlargement. Credit: Map adapted and annotated by Simerg from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

Dear Jamats:

Recently, I met a well-known young Ismaili civil society activist based in Kabul, and conducted a short interview with her that focused on her life experiences, opportunities, achievements and her views on the political future and social life under the new regime. She concluded the interview by asking Jamati institutions for an action plan about the future direction of the Jamat. In my third report I had noted that, by their own admission, the Jamati institutions do not have surveys and locations of the Jamat in Afghanistan. Members of the Jamat were advised to take care of their own safety and security. This situation in Afghanistan is unfortunate and unacceptable in the present time. I am sad to note that this lack of Jamati statistics and demographic information, which prevents an effective action plan to help the Jamat, is apparently not unique to Afghanistan.

Please note that the editor of Simerg, Malik Merchant, has verified the authenticity of the person I interviewed and has decided to keep both my name as well the name of the interviewee anonymous for our well-being, safety and protection. I shall simply refer to her as Roshan which is not her real first name.

Women walking on a street in Kabul's Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood.
Kabul’s residents walk along a street in the city’s Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

After the Taliban takeover of the country on August 15, 2021, Roshan became terrified and locked herself at home, thinking that her normal life had come to an end, and that the Taliban would return to the mid 1990s, when they rigidly governed the country with harsh rules and restrictions particularly for women. People were initially terrified and fearful of the new regime, as women were prevented from serving in public institutions. Roshan and many girls like her felt that they would never be able to continue their studies and work. However schooling for girls is increasingly available, albeit separately for men and women, and this has affected the higher education in the country.

Given the international community’s oversight over the behavior of Taliban towards upholding of human and women rights, and their urgent need for international recognition and legitimacy, Roshan believes that, for now, the new Taliban regime might not reimpose the same rules that were in place in the 1990’s.  However, she is not sure whether Taliban will keep their word after the world has granted it the recognition it is seeking. She feels that they might then reimpose the harsher rules of the past. For Roshan, it is most critical for the Taliban to win the hearts and trust of the youth and professionals of the country by keeping their promises as well as allowing some freedom of expression. 

Roshan says the vast majority of the women and women like her benefited from the opportunities like going to school, studying in Universities and Colleges, and having an independent career that the international community and previously US-backed government facilitated. Now, she is wondering whether they will be able to explore the same opportunities that they previously enjoyed under the old regime. She holds out any hope that women like her, who received a quality education and were able to serve their country well for many years, will ever be able to engage and play an active role in either political or social affairs of the country as they previously did. She thinks that under the Taliban, women involvement in the political and social affairs will be restricted and vastly curtailed.

Roshan views the recent meeting between Mawlana Hazar Imam’s special envoy for Afghanistan and the Taliban leadership as positive step towards trust building, but she is neither convinced nor confident that the Taliban would deliver on any commitment that they may have made to the Jamat in Afghanistan as well as other minority groups. Roshan sincerely hopes her pessimism is misplaced, and that things will work out well for the Jamat in the critical period of stabilization ahead. She is pleased to note that AKDN activities continue uninterrupted in the country.

Finally, Roshan would wish the Aga Khan National Council for Afghanistan to design an effective plan and strategy for overcoming the crisis precipitated by the Taliban takeover. There is rampant unemployment and poverty in the Afghan Jamat, and she asks the Ismailis around the globe to support Afghan Jamats through whatever means they can at this time of their need.

A view of Kabul's Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.
A view of Kabul’s Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

On a personal note, I would like to say that all ethnicities and religious minorities are being treated well in Kabul. This is indeed good news. There may be some problems in the suburbs or rural areas but the overall attitude of the Taliban regime towards the minorities is good. I am also pleased to say that we can attend Jamatkhanas for our daily prayers and worship, and that in Kabul the Jamatkhanas are open to both men and women. Additionally, there are no restrictions on religious or social activities in other provinces where there is a larger presence of the Jamat or the Jamat is in a majority.

Before the Taliban takeover, a wide range of Ismaili girls would attend their university classes especially in private universities. But, unfortunately, after the Taliban takeover, girls in general are reluctant to attend the university out of concern for their own safety and well-being. The dire economic situation has further eroded the capacity of families to send their daughters to universities. The educational centers and universities have resumed their activities, but only a small number of female students attend their daily classes.

As far as I know, a number of Jamati members have left the country through the Turkham border crossing with Pakistan (see map above). Others may leave when the passport offices officially start distributing the documents necessary to travel abroad.

One great challenge we have is that a large number of Jamats are unemployed and are using up their savings to survive this uncertain period in their lives. Winters are harsh, and until recently no practical steps had been taken by Jamati institutions to come up with a plan and mitigate the crisis that poor and impoverished Ismaili families are having to deal with. Lately, Jamati institutions have begun distributing flour, oil and beans to a small number of impoverished Ismaili families in Kabul. However a large number of Jamati members have not yet received this much needed relief. Of course, the situation in the country generally is pretty alarming.

As already noted the Aga Khan National Council for Afghanistan must come up with an effective plan and strategy for overcoming the crisis precipitated by the Taliban takeover. I once again sincerely appeal to the Ismaili Leaders International Forum (LIF), the AKDN agencies and Ismaili Council leadership to be forward thinking, closely monitor the situation and adopt an effective strategy for addressing all the issues that will continue to emerge in the foreseeable future.

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: December 4, 2021.

____________________

Simerg urges the international Jamat to lend their support to Focus Humanitarian in their on-going efforts to assist the Jamat in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. We sincerely hope the youth and professionals in the Jamat will join in this extremely worthy and noble cause. On-line contributions can be made at the Focus Humanitarian websites for Canada, Europe, and the USA by clicking on FOCUS CANADA; FOCUS EUROPE; and FOCUS USA.

We pray for the safety and well-being of all the people of Afghanistan as well as the members of the Ismaili Jamat. We further hope that the new Taliban leadership in Afghanistan will work toward a common goal — that of stabilizing, uniting and bringing peace to the country that will enable every citizen to contribute to the progress and development of the country.

________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. Please note that Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Taliban Deputy Prime Minister -- Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- with Aga Khan Development Network representatives AKDN Simerg Malik Merchant

Afghanistan Update: Taliban and Aga Khan Development Network Discuss Future Development in Country

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Sputnik, a Moscow based news agency, reported on November 6, 2021, that The Taliban represented by the deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, met with Akbar Pesnani, the envoy of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan, to discuss a comprehensive development strategy for the country. The Taliban government calls itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The meeting was confirmed by the government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a tweet, which is as follows:

Article continues after tweet

Translation of Tweet: Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, met with Ali Akbar Pasnani, Aga Khan’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan, and discussed the activities of the Aga Khan Development Network. To invest in parts……

(Photo Credit: Featured photo at top of post is from the Official Twitter Account of the Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid)

___________________________

Hanafi said that the Taliban-led Afghan government was ready to assist AKDN in its mission in the country. ANI, South Asia’s leading multimedia news agency, further added to the Sputnik report by stating that the joint activities should focus on the development of the health care and education systems in Afghanistan. And, according to a report published in Pakistan’s SAMAA TV website, basing its sources on Afghanistan’s Pashto language website Nunn Takki Asia, the deputy prime minister urged AKDN to build a hospital in Afghanistan. Pesnani was assured that the Taliban would provide the necessary conditions and facilities for the Network’s activities.

Afghan media reported Pesnani as saying that that the AKDN’s aim was to build human capacity and focus on girls’ education, in response to which Hanafi said that education is essential for all and the ministries of education and higher education were working on a mechanism and creating conditions’ for girls education in the country.

According to Chitral News of November 7, Hanafi is said to have extended a formal invitation to His Highness the Aga Khan to visit the country. Simerg could not confirm the invitation through other independent sources.

Date posted: November 12, 2021.

___________________

Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Afghanistan Update: Nature Journal’s World View – The Incoming Afghan Government Must Allow Immunizations

“I am optimistic that Taliban Leaders could be persuaded to permit vaccinations again” — Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta

Aga Khan University's Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta
Aga Khan University’s Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta. Photo: Aga Khan University. Click photo to read article.

“The world must work with Kabul’s new rulers to get polio and other diseases under control….The Taliban now running the country has an opportunity to show a pragmatic, reformist face to the world and people of Afghanistan: it needs to run the health system, to care more about protecting women and children….and for the polio-immunization programme to resume.” — Zulfiqar Bhutta, writing in Nature…. READ MORE

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Aga Khan University and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is the Founding Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, which includes a teaching hospital in Kabul. He was recently honoured the 2021 Roux Prize for his tremendous impact on maternal and child health, as a researcher and a leader as well as his commitment to reducing health inequities. READ PROFESSOR BHUTTA’S SEPTEMBER 23 PIECE IN NATURE.

NATURE is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions.

Date posted: September 28, 2021.

________________

We have created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.