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.

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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.

Afghanistan Update: Aga Khan Cultural Services Launches Social Media Pages to Monitor on Potential Dangers to Country’s Cultural Heritage

We invite you to read Melissa Gronlund’s report in the September 23 edition of The National on the news that Aga Khan Cultural Services (Afghanistan) has recently launched Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages that will be a repository of verified information on potential dangers to heritage landmarks in Afghanistan.

We produce, below, excerpts on the subject from the Facebook page of Aga Khan Culture Services Afghanistan, which is part of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Photo: Aga Khan Cultural Services Facebook Page. Please click on image to read Melissa Gronlund’s report in The National.

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TALIBAN CULTURAL COMMISSION STOPS DESTRUCTION OF HISTORIC FORTRESS

16 September 2021, Gereshk, Helmand: “According to sources, local authorities approved the demolition of sections of the perimeter fortifications at the historic fortress in the city of Gereshk (origins dating back to the 8th century) using heavy machinery. The news was posted on social media and stated that the destruction paved the way for the construction of a new madrassa building.”

17 September 2021: “Following criticism by local inhabitants and on social media, the demolition was halted and Ahmadullah Wasiq, Deputy Head of the Taliban Cultural Commission, stated in an interview with Radio Azadi that “this is a historic fortress and is part of Afghanistan’s history and when news of its destruction reached the elders, it was stopped.”

NO RESTRICTIONS ON VISITING GARDEN IN KABUL

15 September 2021, Kabul: Low and high ranking members of the Taliban frequently visit the Chihilsitoon garden in Kabul, the rehabilitation of which was funded by the German government, surrendering their weapons as required by garden operations. To date they have not imposed restrictions on who can visit the garden which includes large numbers of women and young girls.

For more news and other developments, please click Aga Khan Cultural Services – Afghanistan | Facebook.

Date posted: September 24, 2021.

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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.

A woman shops at the Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood in Kabul simerg

Sunday, September 5, 2021: Letter from Afghanistan [3] – Leadership Urges Jamati Members Not to Cross Border into Pakistan

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

This is the third in our series of on-going reports from our special correspondent in Afghanistan who is covering for us the developments in his country that are impacting the lives of the Ismaili Jamat. The first two reports can be read HERE – August 26 and HERE – August 29.

We urge all members of the Jamat to support institutions worldwide, such as 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.

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LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN: DANGEROUS AND RISKY BORDER CROSSING, CURRENT GROUND SITUATION AND AN APPEAL TO THE ISMAILI LEADERSHIP

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[REPORT #3]. SUNDAY, SPETEMBER 5, 2021

[This is our Ismaili correspondent’s third letter 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 two letters HERE – August 26 and HERE – August 29. We advise readers to note that in some cases the same information may be repeated in multiple reports — Ed.]

Please click on map for enlargement

Afghanistan Map, Spin Boldak
Map of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. The area, Spin Boldak, in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, and the border town of Chaman in Pakistan where many Afghans seek refuge, are circled in red. 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:

First of all, a special thanks to the Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Afghanistan for staying alongside the Jamats in such a critical time in the country, and for apprising the Jamats about the overall measures we need to take for our well being and safety.

A vast majority of members of the Jamat are concerned regarding the recent upheavals and there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding their future, especially of their children. Many have therefore decided to embark on a journey to neighboring countries through whatever available means. I have learnt that recently several left the country through the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan, without proper and legal documentation (see map above). This is a very risky and dangerous proposition. Those crossing the border face risks from smugglers who are notorious in their dealings with innocent people, and the Jamat has been specifically requested not to put their life in jeopardy and avoid using illegal ways to reach their destination. Social media reports suggest that some Jamati members were successfully able to cross the border into Pakistan, while some other Ismaili families have gone missing and there is no clue about their fate. Those who have legal documents to travel or leave the country have been advised that they should wait until the opening of passport offices, the Hamid Karzai international airport, as well as other border crossings so they can travel out of the country safely.

Following the official departure of US troops from Afghanistan, the political future and formation of new government have remained uncertain. The Taliban, the only ruling party, was scheduled to announce the new government on Friday, September 3, but this has not yet happened. Another concern is related to the inclusive nature of the new government. We anxiously await the announcement.

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A man on motorcycle carries a delivery in Kabul. August 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

Most public institutions particularly key functional ministries have remained closed. The nation is suffering from lack of fuel and food. According to the United Nations, about a third of Afghan citizens are struggling to survive in the face of the crisis and insecurity, with the prospect that the country could functionally be out of food within a month. Drought, conflict, Covid-19, unemployment and drain of international aids have contributed to escalating of this crisis. It is therefore gratifying to read that yesterday, Saturday, September 4, 2021, the UN Secretary General António Guterres announced that the United Nations will hold an international conference to raise humanitarian funds for the Afghan people on September 13.

Following the Taliban takeover, the security situation in almost all parts of the nation has relatively improved. But, ISIS-K is considered a potential threat to the new government led by the Taliban. Clarissa Ward, CNN International chief correspondent had twitted recently that the Taliban sources told CNN they were concerned ISIS-K had melted with Taliban in Kabul and it was challenging to distinguish them from legitimate Taliban fighters. The emergence of ISIS-K, an affiliated group with ISIS mainstream based in the Middle East, has raised concerns among all people and specially in the Shite minority groups consisting of Twelvers and Ismailis. 

Given the recent developments and new the unfolding realities, all Jamat members have to be vigilant and act cautiously in such a dire situation. The Ismaili Council for Afghanistan had issued an announcement last week that require all the Jamat members to observe the following points: (1) No definitive surveys of the Jamat in Afghanistan is available, and members of the Jamat who need help for their safety and security, are required to take personal measures; and (2) the Jamats have been asked to avoid illegal immigrations without visas and passports, since no country has officially announced its cooperation for accepting refugees.

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A woman shops at the Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood in Kabul.
A woman shops at the Qala-e-Fathullah neighbourhood in Kabul. August 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

A further announcement made in the last 24-48 hours has instructed the Jamat not to try and cross the border into Pakistan illegally, as those who do cross the border at Spin Boldak will be hosted in refugee camps in nearby Chaman (see map shown above). The camps are under full control of the Pakistani military and they will not permit the refugee arrivals from Afghanistan to leave the camps. Thus, the Jamats have been requested not to travel to Pakistan without having legal documents.

In short, the Ismaili Afghan Jamats need to demonstrate resilience and vigilance in the face of unfolding challenges and crises, and follow the instructions and guidance provided by AKDN agencies and the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan. However, I continue to express my concern about there not being a plan on the part of AKDN and the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan to overcome the crisis that Ismailis are encountering throughout the nation, particularly in the economic spheres in the life of the Jamat.

I therefore 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.

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A man waits for a minibus at a traffic square in Kabul. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

I will, as mentioned previously, continue to provide updates on the situation in Afghanistan and will also report about whether the Jamati institutions are meeting their responsibilities to the Jamat. As you know, email addresses have been provided (click HERE) whom we can write to. I again assure readers around the world that the information I have provided is as accurate and reliable as can be.

I do appreciate that my Ismaili brothers and sisters in Afghanistan may have a different perspective of issues affecting the Jamat, and the editor and I invite them to provide their honest and sincere feedback in the comments box below. Opinions should be expressed in a constructive manner as that would be for the betterment of the Jamat. I also believe we can individually act as guides to our institutions who are working in extremely difficult circumstances. We also have to remember that we are living in a Covid-19 pandemic which complicates things even further. The editor will publish your feedback anonymously.

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: September 5, 2021.
Last updated: September 5, 2021 (18:10 – the original version had a few typos that have now been corrected).

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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.

Afghanistan Update: Ismaili CIVIC Volunteers Join Local Organizations in Cedar Park, Texas, to Support Refugees

Dozens of cars lined up outside the Ismaili Jamatkhana to show support for the hundreds of Afghan refugees who are about to call Central Texas their new home. Local organizations are making sure refugee families have what they need when they arrive….Click HERE or on image below to see video and read report by Ricardo Lewis on CBS Austin.

Ismaili Humanitarian Supply Drive
Dozens of volunteers with Ismaili CIVIC along with other local organizations hosted a humanitarian supply drive to collect donations from hygiene to school supplies. Photo: Extracted from CBS Austin Video Report. Click on image for complete text and video report by Ricardo Lewis.

Date posted: August 30, 2021.

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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.

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.

Kabul residents walking on the street at Taimany Square.

Sunday, August 29, 2021: Letter from Afghanistan [2]

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

This is the second in our series of on-going reports from our special correspondent in Afghanistan who is covering for us the developments in his country that are impacting the lives of the Ismaili Jamat. Our first report dated Thursday, August 26, 2021 can be read HERE.

We urge all members of the Jamat to support institutions worldwide, such as 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 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.

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LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN: THE REALITIES ON THE GROUND AND AN APPEAL TO THE ISMAILI LEADERSHIP

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, August 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.


[REPORT #2]. SUNDAY, AUGUST 29, 2021

[This is our Ismaili correspondent’s second letter 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 letter HERE. We advise readers to note that in some cases the same information may be repeated in multiple reports — Ed.]

Dear Jamats:

I am aware about your anxiety and concerns regarding the new developments unfolding in recent days throughout my country and in particular the capital “Kabul”. Many of you also have families and friends in Afghanistan. Others who have visited from outside the country or worked here have built strong bonds with the country as well as members of the Jamat. Generally though, as brothers and sisters living in any part of the world, we think of one another, especially in times of difficulties such as the one the Afghan Jamat is facing at the moment. Hence, I am compelled to provide the global Jamats with some insights pertaining to the Afghan Jamats, who are experiencing difficulties and uncertainties in their life at the present time. In my continuing reports I will endeavour to cover all aspects of our concerns as well as our appeals to the Ismaili leadership in Afghanistan, and how they are responding to our needs. I will seek to be sincere and honest.

As readers are aware the people of Afghanistan and of course the Ismailis have been adversely impacted by recent political changes. We are concerned and anxious about our safety, wellbeing and fate. When it comes to safety of our Jamati members, no party involved in affairs of the country can assure us of our absolute security. In this case, no entity — even the Jamati leadership — in the country can guarantee that all Ismailis living across the country are secure and that are exposed to no threat at the moment. 

Generally, all communities including Ismaili community are concerned about the political future of the country. Thus, many have been desperately trying to leave the country, abandoning their homes and belongings.

The emergence of ISIS-K (Islamic States of Iraq and Syria, Khorasan Branch) that claimed the responsibility for the suicide attack near Kabul airport killing more than 170 people has left us deeply worried. The incident is of particular and real concern to the ethnic Hazara Shia Muslims and indeed all Shia Muslims, who are regarded as heretics by the group. However as we have seen, ISIS-K doesn’t distinguish as they even consider the Taliban as their enemy. They are indiscriminate. However, it is important to note that ISIS-K have previously targeted civilian masses belonging to Hazara Shite minority, which resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties including women and children. In such a situation, as you can imagine, the Jamats living in the region which is predominantly Hazara see no other option but to flee to neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, or Western nations. [Read Hazara Shias flee Afghanistan” in The Guardian — Ed.]

Fortunately, members of the Jamat who had worked with foreign nationals and entities have either already left or waiting to be evacuated from the country before August 31. No doubt, many will be left behind with the deadline that all countries are trying to meet. Most of the countries say they have now stopped the evacuation process. The members of the Jamat who are able to afford ticket payments and have some sort of overseas family sponsorship are determined to embark on a journey intended to those nations as well as Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.

The Jamats living in poverty are deeply worried about feeding their families, and are expecting and hoping that the leadership in Afghanistan, namely the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan, will come to their rescue and provide emergency assistance of food and medicine. In this regard the Jamats around the world can be of great material assistance through institutions such as Focus. [To make on-line contributions please visit Focus Canada; Focus Europe; and Focus USA — Ed.]

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Students seen entering the grounds of Kabul's Polytechnique University
Students seen entering the grounds of Kabul’s Polytechnique University, founded in 1963. It is the second largest university in Kabul. Sunday, August 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

One piece of good news is that the Taliban has recently announced that all female employees working in health sector can attend their duties on a regular basis. However, given the uncertainty and deteriorated security situation, some parents are reluctant to allow their daughters to resume their career or attend their daily university classes. 

Under all these circumstances, we are hoping that the Ismaili leadership in Afghanistan including the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan and AKDN agencies will design a plan and take measures in order to overcome the crisis that we are facing at the moment. I had raised this matter in my first letter. Also, I am hoping that the Ismaili leadership will be able to specifically guide and advise parents and their daughters on how they can carry on with their careers and studies — hopefully some guarantees can be secured from the Taliban about the safety of female members in the Jamat who lead professional lives in health care and education.

We are also appealing to the Ismaili Leaders International Forum to closely monitor the developments unfolding in Afghanistan and extend its necessary aid for Jamats in need, and adopt a proper strategy that can address the problems confronting Afghan Ismailis at the current time. Communication with the Jamat is very important. So far, as I note, one advisory has been put out on August 20 (Read English and Farsi), with a brief follow-up by AKDN on August 25 (Read English, Arabic, Farsi and Russian).

I would like to express my gratitude and thankfulness for giving me the opportunity to provide a forum so that I am able to share the Afghan Jamat’s concerns and living conditions with your readers around the world. To summarize the above points, I request that the following be done:

(1) Understand the ground realities in different parts of the country, and specifically prepare, plan and take steps to remedy the situation as necessary. For example, the Hazara Jamat may require special guidance and instructions with regard to their well-being and safety;

(2) Address the poverty issue where families are economically deprived and ensure that they receive material assistance, food and proper health care; and

(3) Advise students, the youth and professionals of the Jamat about their studies and careers. The council should seek to get guarantees from the Taliban that ladies who are in the health and education sectors will be well-treated and respected when they report for their duties. Otherwise, parents will be reluctant to send their daughters for their duties.

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Kabul residents walking on the street at Taimany Square.
Kabul residents walking on street at the city’s Taimany Square. Sunday, August 29, 2021. Photo: Simerg correspondent, Kabul.

I will continue to provide updates on the situation in Afghanistan and will also report about whether the Jamati institutions are meeting their responsibilities to the Jamat. As you know, email addresses have been provided (click HERE) whom we can write to. I again assure readers around the world that the information I have provided is as accurate and reliable as can be.

I do appreciate that my Ismaili brothers and sisters in Afghanistan may have a different perspective of issues affecting the Jamat, and the editor and I invite them to provide their honest and sincere feedback in the comments box below. Opinions should be expressed in a constructive manner. It would be for the betterment of the Jamat, and we can actually act as a guide to our institutions who are working in extremely difficult circumstances. We also have to remember that we are living in a Covid-19 pandemic which complicates things even further. The editor will publish all feedback anonymously.

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: August 29, 2021.

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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.

Recent pieces on Afghanistan in Simerg:

[1]. Letter from Afghanistan (1);

[2]. Aga Khan Development Network’s Commitment to Afghanistan and Its People; and Overview of AKDN’s Work in the Country for the Last 25 Years;

[3]. To the Women of Afghanistan: Let Your Story and that of Bibi Khadijah (a.s.) Be a Powerful Trampoline of Progress for the People of Afghanistan and Around the Muslim World;

[4]. Flowers – with Love – for the Children, Girls, Sisters and Mothers of Afghanistan;

[5]. Ismaili Institutions Says Majority of Jamati Members in Afghanistan Safe and Continuing with Normal Life; and

[6]. Ismailis in Afghanistan Asked to Stay Home and Not Panic

Provincial Map of Afghanistan

August 27, 2021: Anxious Ismaili Couple in New Mexico, USA, Await News About their Extended Family Members in Afghanistan

Prepared and Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Albuquerque doctor Sharmin Dharas and her husband, Shams Mehri, are desperately waiting to hear whether more than 100 extended family members — some of whom worked for Americans in Kabul — will be among those flown to safety as the deadline for Americans and some Afghans to leave by August 31, 2021 quickly approaches…. READ FULL STORY IN THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN.

Also, please click on the following links for posts published on this website, Simerg, on the situation in Afghanistan:

[1]. Letter from Afghanistan (1);

[2]. Aga Khan Development Network’s Commitment to Afghanistan and Its People; and Overview of AKDN’s Work in the Country for the Last 25 Years;

[3]. To the Women of Afghanistan: Let Your Story and that of Bibi Khadijah (a.s.) Be a Powerful Trampoline of Progress for the People of Afghanistan and Around the Muslim World;

[4]. Flowers – with Love – for the Children, Girls, Sisters and Mothers of Afghanistan;

[5]. Ismaili Institutions Says Majority of Jamati Members in Afghanistan Safe and Continuing with Normal Life; and

[6]. Ismailis in Afghanistan Asked to Stay Home and not Panic.

Date posted: August 27, 2021.

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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.

Caption for featured image of maps of Afghanistan and its provinces at top of post:

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. Population (2020 estimate): 32,890,171; Largest city Kabul (capital), population 4.6 million. At left, Provincial map of Afghanistan. Key (alphabetical order): Badakhshan (30); Badghis (4); Baghlan (19); Balkh (13), Bamyan (15), Daykundi (10), Farah (2), Faryab (5); Ghazni (16); Ghor (6), Helmand (7); Herat (1); Jowzjan (8); Kabul (22), Kandahar (12); Kapisa (29); Khost (26); Kunar (34); Kunduz (18); Laghman (32); Logar (23); Nangarhar (33); Nimruz (3); Nuristan (31); Paktia (24); Paktika (25); Panjshir (28); Parwan (20); Samangan (14); Sar-e Pol (9); Takhar (27); Uruzgan (11); Maidan Wardak (21); and Zabul (17).

Map Credits: Provincial map (left): Joshbaumgartner via Wikepedia, Public Domain. Map of Afghanistan with key cities (right): Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

street scene kabul after taliban takeover august 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021: Letter from Afghanistan [1]

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

We have received a very reliable report by an Ismaili individual (name withheld) of the ground realities in Afghanistan following the recent swift and generally peaceful takeover of the country by the Taliban. The author is in contact with numerous Ismaili individuals in Kabul and around the country, and will be sending regular updates to Simerg. The editor is directly in contact with the individual, and will consolidate the reports received as “Letter from Afghanistan” until normality returns to the country.

The recent institutional announcement (read it HERE) as well as the AKDN press release of August 25, 2021 (read it HERE) has no doubt helped the spirit of the Jamat in Afghanistan during these extremely difficult days. However, there are difficulties being faced in the capital and elsewhere in the country, and many members of the Jamat are deeply apprehensive about what the future holds for them. This concern is noted in the letter below. Generally, we are pleased with the announcements that the Taliban has made regarding the safety and well being of every citizen of Afghanistan, including minority communities as well as the children and women of the country. However, there may be elements within the Taliban that are not abiding by the instructions of their Taliban leadership, bringing fear to many of the country’s citizens, especially those living outside the capital, Kabul.

We pray for safety and well-being of all the people of Afghanistan, and the members of the Ismaili Jamat.

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Note: This report was submitted hours before the tragic suicide bombing near Kabul airport that resulted in dozens of death and injuries to Afghan civilians and US military personnel.

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN: REALITIES ON THE GROUND


[REPORT #1]. THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2021

street scene in Kabul following Taliban takeover
A street scene in Kabul following the Taliban takeover. Photo: Special to Simerg.

August 26, 2021: I am writing this letter to provide authentic information based on the ground realities and feedback from Jamats living in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Ismaili Jamats are grateful to Ismaili Council for Afghanistan that has stayed beside the Jamat in this critical moment, and for providing instructions on how to deal with day to day challenges. It is a great honor for us as Ismailis who are able to continue practicing their faith without any fear and disruption after the entire country came under the control of Taliban. We appreciate the global Jamats’ sharing the same concern regarding their Ismaili brethren and sisters, offering their help and support for Afghan Ismailis in such a dire and critical moment. 

street scene kabul after taliban takeover august 2021
A street scene in Kabul following the Taliban takeover. Photo: Special to Simerg.

As readers may be aware, the Taliban declared general amnesty for all public service employees, military and security members and even those who worked with foreign nationals. But practically, they are on the look out for those who had any ties with the former government or were associated with Western military or Western NGOS. Therefore, the Jamati members who worked with the Afghan Government or western organizations are concerned about their fate along with many youth members of the Jamat who joined the military post-Taliban in the early 2000’s.

The majority of the people, including members of the Afghan Ismaili Jamat living in the capital Kabul are afraid, unemployed and locked at home. The women and girls worry about their education, returning to their work, or even leaving home without a male companion. A vast percentage of the Jamat is unemployed in the cities governed by the Taliban militants. The remittance sent by family members living abroad to their immediate families in the country has been blocked, since Money Gram and Western Union Transfer are not available.

Generally, the people of Afghanistan and of course the Ismailis are concerned about the gains achieved and preserved during past two decades in human rights, freedom of speech, respect for the rights of women and minorities. Now, there is an element of uncertainty, and we are concerned about feeding our families and fulfilling our daily requirements. The education of the youth and and children in the upcoming future is also uncertain.

Local residents and members of the Taliban army seen at Kabul’s Babur Gardens shortly after the city was captured by the Taliban in mid August. The Gardens were restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, providing much needed green space for Kabul’s residents after years of war and destruction. Photo: Special to Simerg.

We are all hoping that the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan, Jamati and Imamat institutions such as the Aga Khan Development Network will respond to this crisis we are facing in the best possible way. 

The devotion, dedication and steadfastness shown by leadership in Afghanistan is highly appreciated. But, the leadership only assures them of their relative safety, issuing statements that ignores the concerns and anxieties of Afghan Jamats. We sincerely hope that the leadership in Afghanistan will share with the Jamats their plans and the measures they are taking on how they plan to overcome the confusion, crisis and chaos, and thus ease the burden that is in our hearts and minds with regard to our present situation as well as our future.

At last, I would like to express my gratitude and thankfulness for giving me the opportunity to provide a forum so that I am able to share the Afghan Jamat’s concerns and living conditions with your readers around the world.

I would like to assure the Jamats around the world that we are generally fine, and there is no threat to us. I wish to assure you that the information provided by me is authentic and reliable. Thank you.

Date posted: August 26, 2021.

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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.

Flowers, Flowers and More Flowers – with Love – for the Children, Girls, Sisters and Mothers of Afghanistan

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

PLEASE READ THIS FIRST: We wish to remind Jamati members in Afghanistan that they should remain calm, and not give in to panicked reactions. A Jamati advisory was issued on August 20, 2021 to that effect (please read it in English and Farsi). We have learnt from newspaper reports that tens of thousands of Afghan citizens, out of panic, have shown up at the gates of Kabul airport hoping to get a flight out of the country. This panicky rush has resulted in seven deaths. Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is giving constant guidance and direction to the Jamati leadership in addressing the developments that are taking place in the country. A special AFGHANISTAN HELPLINE has also been set up. As per the advisory and announcements being made in Jamatkhanas around the world, we are gratified to learn that “Ismaili and AKDN institutions remain safe, and have not come under any undue pressures, and that in accordance with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, all our institutions continue to operate as normal”.

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Flowers

These daytime and night-time photos of the beautiful Hibiscus flowers were taken at the Aga Khan Park in Toronto in the last week. The post is dedicated to the children, girls, sisters and mothers in Afghanistan, with the hope that they will be given the opportunity to become fully engaged in the country’s development, progress, growth and prosperity in the years ahead.

(Click on photos for enlargement)

Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant. August 22, 2021
Hibiscus. August 22, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus. August 14, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus. Photo: © Malik Merchant Simerg Aga Khan Park
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus. August 22, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Ismaili Jamatkhana Aga Khan Museum Malik Merchant Simerg
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Malik Merchant Simerg
Hibiscus. August 14, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.

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Last Word: The Pigeons and the Hibiscus

Through wisdom, may compassion, love, peace and power be given to the women of Afghanistan

Hibiscus and Pigeons Aga Khan Park, Peace, Power, Compassion, Wisdom Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus and Pigeons. August 22, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Date posted: August 22, 2021.

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Another version of this post appears in Simergphotos.

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Taliban Takeover: (1) Advisory from Ismaili Institutions Says Majority of Jamati Members Safe and Continuing with Normal Life; and (2) Afghanistan Helpline Set Up

Introduced and compiled By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

Advisory

An advisory posted in English and Farsi on the official website of the Ismaili community on the latest situation in Afghanistan, says that there are very few civilian casualties involving members of the Jamat, and the majority of them are safe and continuing with normal life. The advisory notes that the Jamat has been advised to remain calm, and not give in to panicked reactions, and that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is giving constant guidance and direction to the Jamati leadership in addressing the developments that are taking place in the country.

The advisory asks each family to remain in charge of their homes and dwellings wherever they are located. It also notes that Ismaili and AKDN institutions remain safe, and have not come under any undue pressures, and that in accordance with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, all our institutions continue to operate as normal.

In an earlier post, that will continue to be updated with reliable information as well as analysis from external non-Jamati sources, we referred to an article that appeared in the on-line edition of Coquitlam’s Tricity News in which Malik Malikzada had mentioned to the newspaper’s reporter, after having spoken to his cousin living in Kabul, that Ismailis in Afghanistan Were Asked to Stay Home and not Panic. That piece of news brought immense relief to us at Simerg as well as our readers from around the world, and we are now pleased to note the official institutional statement in this regard.

Afghanistan Helpline

Al-Saha the communications newsletter of the UK Ismaili National Council has released the following statement in its latest issue (Please read official web version HERE):

“As the unfolding situation in Afghanistan continues to be of concern, the UK and Europe Helpline has been extended for any member of the Jamat that has any concerns or questions. If you live in the UK or Europe, please call the Helpline on 0208 191 0911, Option 2, or email nam@iiuk.org in the first instance. If you have any friends or family that live in Afghanistan who require help and support, please advise them to contact the Afghanistan National Council on +93793014401.

“The Jamat is advised to be vigilant about recent possibly fraudulent activity pertaining to the current crisis in Afghanistan. Please be cautious of fundraising campaigns claiming to support Afghans in need or other advertised services promising to speed immigration processes from Afghanistan. Some of these schemes may be fraudulent and illegal. The Jamati Institutions are working together to support the Jamat. Please direct contributions to FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance via the website ……. if you wish to support those who have been affected by crisis or displacement, including the Jamat in Afghanistan. Thank you for your continued support.”

Prayers

We join Jamati members from around the world and pray for the safety and well-being of the Jamat in Afghanistan as well as the nation at large. We pray for a united Afghanistan in the days and months ahead.

Reader’s Feedback

Please read Comments Received and, if you wish, contribute your reflections, thoughts, insights and eye-witness accounts of the situation in Afghanistan. Names of contributors will be withheld on request, and Simerg and its sister websites never publish or reveal email addresses of individuals who provide feedback.

Date posted: August 20, 2021.
Last updated: August 21, 2021 (Afghanistan helpline section added).

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