Report & Tweet: AKDN Representative Meets With Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, January 19, 2023

The Khaama Press News Agency, the largest online news service for Afghanistan, reports in a dispatch dated January 19, 2023, that Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, met with Akbar Ali Pasnani, Special Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

AKDN Afghanistan update, Simerg, Aga Khan Development
Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi meets with Akbar Ali Pasnani Special Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

AKDN has been functioning in most parts of Afghanistan with a wide range of services aimed at improving the living conditions of people in the rural and urban parts of the country. It is one of the few international organizations which maintained its agencies operational in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. The aid organization’s continued support has been of paramount importance for the lives of thousands of vulnerable families across the country… READ MORE ON KHAAMA.

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Date posted: January 26, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Must Attend Event in Calgary, Saturday, January 21, 2023: Screening of Aleem Karmali’s Acclaimed Film “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda” – Please Watch Trailer and Reserve Your Tickets Now

“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton

Note: The event is now over.

[Simerg is delighted to inform its readers, especially those living in and around the Calgary area, that Edmonton based filmmaker Aleem Karmali is travelling to Calgary for the screening of his highly acclaimed film “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda”, on Saturday, January 21, 2023, at the Globe Cinema located at 617 8 Ave SW, Calgary. The doors to the cinema will open at 1:00 PM and the film will commence shortly thereafter. At the screening, Aleem will engage in a discussion with Honourable Salma Lakhani, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, whose appointment to the position was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 30, 2020. Salma herself became stateless when Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in August 1972. As readers may be aware, Simerg had carried a special article on Salma Lakhani with a link to an interview she gave to the Canadian Geographic magazine. We sincerely hope Calgary residents will fill up the cinema for Karmali’s film. Tickets are only $10.00 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE. At Simerg’s invitation, Aleem Karmali has prepared the following short introductory piece about the film he is screening in Calgary — Ed.]

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The Ugandan Asian Refugees: Canada’s First Major Movement of Non-European Refugees

Ugandan refugees at the Montreal Longue Pointe reception centre. Aleem Karmali fiml story on Simerg
Ugandan refugees at the Montreal Longue Pointe reception centre. Photograph: Library and Archives Canada, sourced from https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=fonandcol&IdNumber=4332941, Creative Commons.

By ALEEM KARMALI

The story of the Ugandan Asian refugees has received a fair amount of coverage in the past year, marking the 50th anniversary of Idi Amin’s expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in 1972. The expulsion targeted around 50 thousand people from a diverse array of ethnic and religious backgrounds, including several thousand Ismaili Muslims. 

Often when these stories are told, they focus on the experiences of the refugees during the expulsion, their settlement in the UK, Canada, or other countries, and their contributions to their new societies. Typically, the story begins with Idi Amin’s expulsion order and they rarely engage with the damaging legacy of British colonialism in shaping the tangled historical context leading up to the expulsion. 

In Canada specifically, the stories often focus specifically on Ismailis. However, while the Ismailis were the largest group that came to Canada, this was actually a diverse community, including many Goans, Hindus, Sikhs, and other Muslims. 

DOCUMENTING AN UNTOLD CANADIAN STORY 

When I set out to make a documentary film about the expulsion, I wanted to tell the Canadian story in a slightly different way than others had generally approached it. I approached the expulsion as a key moment in Canadian refugee and immigration history. 

The Ugandan Asians were the first major movement of non-European and non-white refugees accepted in Canadian history. We tend to view Canada today as a multicultural, diverse, and pluralistic society. However, it was not always so. 

Canada’s early history had very exclusionary immigration policies rooted in Canada’s history as a British colony. Eventually, Canadian immigration policies began to change, laying the foundations for Canada’s decision to accept almost 8,000 Ugandan refugees. 

The Uganda movement also left a legacy in Canada. The generally positive perception of the Ugandan refugees opened the door to more, and larger, refugee movements from outside Europe, including the Boat People in the late 1970s, and later movements from Afghanistan and Syria. 

Another legacy is that the experiences of Canadian immigration officials on the ground in Uganda led to new policies, particularly the world’s first policy of private sponsorship of refugees. 

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THE FILM: “THROWN INTO CANADA”

The film, Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda,” is a 77-minute feature-length documentary, which premiered in November 2022 in Edmonton. It has also been featured at Carleton University’s “Beyond Resettlement” conference and was a selection in the Waterloo Region Migration Film Festival

The film features interviews with historians, Canadian immigration officials, and former Ugandan refugees from the Ismaili, Goan, and Hindu communities. Notable interviews include Dr. Shezan Muhammedi, Prof. Karim H. Karim, Senator Mobina Jaffer, and Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. 

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Watch Trailer

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CALGARY SCREENING: JANUARY 21, 2023, GLOBE CINEMA, DOORS OPEN 1:00 PM; AND LINK TO PURCHASE TICKETS

An upcoming screening will be held on Saturday, January 21 in Calgary at the Globe Cinema617 8 Ave SW, Calgary — followed by a panel discussion with Her Honour Salma Lakhani and myself. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.

The film is independently-produced with grant funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council.

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TESTIMONIALS ON THE FILM

The following is feedback received from previous screenings of the film:

“I want to compliment you on a superb documentary.” — Michael Molloy, Canadian Immigration Official in Kampala in 1972

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“It is beautifully told – written and visual. I love many creative elements you’ve included and I was so happy to hear so many voices.” — Shelley Ayres, Producer/Director of “Expelled: My Roots in Uganda” (CTV)

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“The film was so well made, and I learned so much.” — Ikhlas Hussain, Waterloo Public Library

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“What a wonderful contribution!!”  — Dr. Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Associate Professor of Muslim Societies at Georgetown University

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“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand.” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton Resident

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PURCHASE TICKETS

Again, tickets for the film can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.

Date posted: January 17, 2023.
Last updated: January 20, 2023 (trailer added.)

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Aleem Karmali is a filmmaker, writer and educator based in Edmonton, Canada, Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda
Aleem Karmali

Aleem Karmali is an independent documentary filmmaker, writer and educator based in Edmonton, Canada. Through his company Crescent Productions, his films generally explore the intersections of history, diversity, culture and religion, with a particular focus on the contributions of Muslim civilizations to the world. He is also an alumnus of The Institute of Ismaili Studies and has produced several projects for The.Ismaili and the Aga Khan Development Network over the years. He also contributed The Unveiling at Sijilmasa for Simerg’s acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There.

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Photos and Story of Internment at Banff and Jasper National Parks During World War I, and Jehangir Merchant’s 1961 Internment in Mozambique

PLEASE CLICK: Story of Internment

Malik Merchant’s recent visit to Jasper National Park to attend the Dark Sky event apparently taught him an important new lesson in Canadian History — the internment of Ukrainians and others from European countries who were deemed to be “enemy aliens” by the Canadian Government. While reflecting on this sad chapter, Malik’s thoughts also turned to the internment of his own father, Jehangir Merchant, in Mozambique in 1961 for almost 6 months for holding an Indian passport. Read and share his post which includes excerpts from a loving letter that Jehangir wrote to his beloved wife, Malek, as a new member was added to the Merchant family just as the internment of Indian citizens got underway. Please click HERE or on the image below for the article and photos in Simergphotos.

Please click on photo for article

Date posted: October 25, 2022.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to almost 2000 pieces published since the website was created in 2009. Also visit Simerg’s two sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Barakah’s editor may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Malik may be followed @Facebook and @Twitter.

The Aga Khans, the Hereditary Imamat and the British Monarchy: A 150 Year Relationship of Respect, Cooperation and Friendship; Plus Rare Photos Featuring Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, with the Present 49th Ismaili Imam

[The original version of this piece by Rizwan Mawani was published on Simerg’s sister website Barakah. This reformatted version includes a number of licensed photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Prince Charles that were not part of the Barakah article. We have also included excerpts from speeches made by Prince Charles at events where Mawlana Hazar Imam was also present, prior to the Prince of Wales becoming King Charles III upon the death of his mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022 — Ed.]

The British Monarchy and the Ismaili Imamat – 19th Century to present day. Chart: © Rizwan Mawani. King Charles III Aga Khan, Simerg
The British Monarchy and the Ismaili Imamat – 19th Century to present day. Chart: © Rizwan Mawani. Please click on image for enlargement.

By RIZWAN MAWANI

In advance of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee commemorations in January 1887, a 10-year-old Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (1877-1957), accompanied by his uncle Aga Jungi Shah (d. 1896) addressed the jamat at Bombay’s Darkhana in Persian. His private secretary, Kurrim Khan, translated the speech for the jamat in their native tongue and its English translation was published in the local newspaper. The reign of the sovereign was commemorated across the Empire and a decade earlier, in the same year that Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was born in Karachi, the Queen was also proclaimed the Empress of India further cementing her relationship to the Subcontinent and its people.

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Aga Khan III with members of his family, Barakah
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah as a young boy (seated holding a book) with members of his family. His uncle, Aga Jungi Shah, the son of Imam Hassan Ali Shah and the brother of Imam Aga Ali Shah, is likely the person with the cane. Photograph: “H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951,” published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

The young Aga Khan III began his speech: “I have great pleasure to inform you, all members of the jamat in and out of Bombay, that her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen Empress of India’s subjects are about to show their loyalty in celebrating the Jubilee year of the reign of her Majesty…”

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Chromolithograph of Queen Victoria in state robes with the crown, sceptre and cushion, symbols of her reign.
Chromolithograph of Queen Victoria in state robes with the crown, sceptre and cushion, symbols of her reign. ©The Trustees of the British Museum, released as CC BY_NC_SA 4.0. Reproduced from Wikipedia.

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In his heartfelt oration, the Imam spoke of his gratitude to the Crown. For under its rule, his community was able to practice its faith in relative peace and of the long-standing tradition of the Khoja Ismailis to offer their thanksgiving for this privilege. He continued: “On reference to your prayer books you will find that loyalty to rulers is directed from the foundation of your faith by one of my ancestors, Islam Shah, who instructed Pir Sadr al-Din, the great missionary to the Khojas to teach them to pray daily, ‘God preserve the Raj of the reigning king and grant prosperity to his subjects.’ There are also traditions from his Holiness the Prophet Muhammad to the same effect.”

“I further suppose,” he said, “that many of you present here this morning will remember that my grandfather, Sarkar Aga [Khan I, Imam Hassan Ali Shah], preached in this Jamatkhana to a large assembly of the jamat on the same subject to which I am this day drawing your special attention. I allude to the occasion when public prayer throughout Her Majesty’s dominions was offered up for the recovery of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales from a dangerous illness, and that my grandfather said that he knew of many traditions of his Holiness the Prophet Muhammad, to the effect that it is necessary for all to pray for the safety of the reigning king under whose protection they were living…”

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Aga Khan and the British Crown, Barakah, Rizwan Mawani
Painted photograph of Imam Hassan Ali Shah, Aga Khan I (1804–1881). Photograph: The Ismaili Bombay 1936, Golden Jubilee Number.

In this speech, the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis alluded to the relationship of respect that his predecessor, Aga Khan I had with the monarchy, and in hindsight one that would, as we now know, be fostered and strengthened in the coming generations. The Ismaili Imamat, from its early days, has forged relationships with the leadership of international bodies, heads-of-state and religious representatives promoting peace, cooperation and hope. This happened at the state level at times when the Imams also were political rulers. In more recent generations, Ismaili Imams have been concertedly working towards improving the lives of some of the world’s most impoverished and at-risk populations, alongside the betterment of the global Ismaili community through these diplomatic relationships.

The Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy share a number of features. They are institutions anchored in history and tradition, both reaching back over a millennium, and yet through their holders-of-office engage with and respond to the challenges of the modern world. They are entrenched in an ethic of service and exemplify this through their many global endeavours aimed at reaching populations regardless of creed or background, despite being associated with Islam and Christianity respectively. Furthermore, they are guided and informed by a duty and responsibility inherent to the position.

The relationship between the Imams and the Queens and Kings of England began to take shape once Imam Hassanali Shah, Aga Khan I, left his native Persia and found himself in the territories under the rule of the British. The aftermath of a political power struggle in the Qajar ruling family, propelled the 46th Ismaili Imam to leave his native home — and the home of at least 25 Ismaili Imams before him. Before settling in Bombay in 1845, the Imam spent time in Afghanistan and Sindh, where he and his retinue rendered his services to the British Crown. In gratitude, Queen Victoria honoured the Aga Khan with the hereditary title of His Highness.

While Imam Hassanali Shah never traveled to London — the metropole and centre of the British Empire — nor spoke English, he was instrumental in forging an important relationship between two long-standing institutions that continues to this day. He regularly corresponded and visited with senior representatives of the monarchy in India, including a number of Viceroys. When the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, visited India in 1875, they visited Aga Khan I at his home, an honour usually only afforded to ruling princes within the Empire. The two leaders also bonded over their love of horses and this common interest and passion drew the two figures, and those of their descendants closer together.

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The SS Laos. The ocean liner taken by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III on his first trip to Europe in 1898. Barakah, Rizwan Mawani, News
The SS Laos. The ocean liner taken by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah on his first trip to Europe in 1898.

It was not until the time of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah that an Ismaili Imam would meet a British sovereign for the first time. In February 1898, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah left Bombay for Europe on the French Ocean Liner, the Messageries Maritimes SS Laos. [2] On the same trip, he visited London where he had an audience with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and also with Edward VII, the future King of England, who became a close friend. In May of that year, as part of her birthday honours, the Queen conferred on the Ismaili Imam the title of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE) for his valuable service in British India during times of riot, famine and plague. [3] A year earlier he worked with Professor Haffkine in developing an inoculation for the plague. In doing so, he helped break down barriers and fears about inoculation and establishing hospitals for the various communities in India to battle the disease.

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Aga Khan III sporting his decorations and honours from the British Government, Barakah
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, sporting his decorations and honours from the British Monarchy. Photograph: The Ismaili Bombay. Birthday Number, 1932. Thursday 3rd March 1932 (25th Shawwal 1350/Mana Vad II Samvat 1988).

Until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed the milestone, Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch and the longest reigning queen in world history. She died in 1902 and was succeeded by her son, Edward VII. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was personally invited to attend the coronation of the new King Emperor and Queen Empress Alexandra. He was further honoured as a personal guest of the royal couple and visited Buckingham Palace and York House outside the formality of the official ceremonies taking place. [4] As a memento of the occasion, the King and Queen sent him two large photos with royal signatures as a souvenir of his visit to England.

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Aga Khan and the British Crown Simerg and Barakah
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah in Garten Robes in London for the Coronation of King George VI, 1936. Photograph: Life Magazine, September 27, 1937 (also republished in Ismaili magazines)

In 1906, before he was King, George V came to India. During his tour, he visited Aligarh University, an institution which Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was instrumental in establishing with the intent to provide equal opportunities for quality education for Muslims of the Empire. The King was impressed with both the cause and vision of the fledgling institution, and he eulogized the university on his return to England at London’s Guildhall. To return his admiration, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah set on the process of naming the Academy of Sciences at the school after the then-Prince of Wales. [6]

In May 1910, news reached India of the King Emperor’s death. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah sent a telegram from Paris as did his mother, Lady Aly Shah, from Mahableshwar relaying the news to the jamat. As with monarchs past, the Jamat conveyed their condolences on behalf of the Ismaili community to the Royal Family and the new King. [7] The Imam, in addition to his condolences sent a wreath comprised of over a thousand lilies. [8] Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah attended the funeral at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and was only one of three people representing India and its princes.

By this time, the Ismaili Imam had become an important figure not only within the British Empire, but also on the world stage. In addition to holding the office of the Ismaili Imam, he was now also representing and providing a voice for the concerns and priorities of a significant proportion of the world’s Muslim population and in particular was an advocate for their educational uplift. In his role as honorary president of a newly formed body whose seeds were sown at the Muhammadan Educational Conference a quarter-century earlier, he was a champion for the opportunities of Muslims across the Empire.

In the first decade of the new century, there had been an increasing volume in the sentiments against Empire and Empirical rule in various corners of the world. It is likely for this reason that the Reuter’s Agency interviewed Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah on the role and values of the monarchy in the changing world: “Speaking first for myself personally, secondly as president of the All-India Moslem League, representing seventy million Moslems; and thirdly on this question on behalf of all Indians, I gladly pay a tribute to King Edward and to his successor.” In the interview, Sultan Mahomed Shah spoke about the relationships that Britain’s Kings and Queens had with Indians, their values and their service. He also reflected upon the visits of India’s ruling princes to England and the Crown’s regal visits to India. He noted the complexities of rule and that varied sentiments did exist in some quarters and yet noted, “[t]he Thone is the only object in the Empire which unites us with white British fellow-subjects — a common centre of loyalty and love.” [9]

At the time of King George’s ascension to the throne, one half of the world’s Muslim population was still governed by the British monarchy. [10] Many states in which Ismaili Muslims lived were also under British governance, rule or influence. This remained the case for significant parts of the 20th century even as members of the community migrated and relocated from their ancestral lands. These countries where the community’s residence intersected with British rule included the now independent states of Afghanistan (1919), Australia (1901-1986), Bahrain (1971), Canada (1867-1982), Egypt (1922), India (1947), Iraq (1932), Kenya (1963), Kuwait (1961), Malaysia (1957), Myanmar/Burma, New Zealand (1948-1986), Pakistan (1947), Qatar (1971), South Africa (1910-1961), Sri Lanka (1948), Tanzania (1961), Uganda (1962), United Arab Emirates (1971), Yemen (1967), and of course the United Kingdom.

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Aga Khan, the Ismaili Imamat and the British Crown
King George V and Aga Khan III at the Armstice Day Memorial Service in London. Photograph: Souvenir of The All-Africa Celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Hazar Imam, His Highness the Rt. Hon Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, 1946.

In June 1911, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was invited as a guest of the nation to attend the coronation of King Edward. On this occasion he also requested from the King a Charter for the Muslim university at Aligarh alongside other champions of Muslim education including the Begum of Bhopal. Later that year, the Aga Khan was decorated with the Star of India from the King during the Coronation Darbar. In 1916, he was further honoured with the status of Chief of the Bombay Presidency for Life which was accompanied by an 11-gun salute, a mark of respect and admiration for his service. From 1914 onwards during his trips to London, the Imam regularly lunched with the King and Queen and also had the opportunity to further their social bonds at Ascot and other racecourses.

In January 1936, due to the illness, and later death, of King George V, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah muted his own Golden Jubilee commemorations in Bombay and cancelled commemorations in other cities where Ismailis lived. The deep respect and depth of the sentiments of the Imamat to the British Monarchy echoed throughout the Jamat as a result of this gesture.

In 1937, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah attended the coronation of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, at Westminster Abbey. In his long illustrious career as Imam, Sultan Mahomed Shah was offered 5 titles by 4 different British monarchs: the Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire, KCIE by Queen Victoria, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire, GCIE by King Edward VII, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India, GCSI and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, GCVO by King George V and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St George, GCMG by Queen Elizabeth II.

Upon Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s death in July 1957, Queen Elizabeth wrote a personal note of sympathy to Mata Salamat Om Habibeh, the Imam’s widow. It read:

“It is with deep sorry that I have learned of the death of His Highness, the Aga Khan. I and my predecessors on the Throne have for many years enjoyed the loyalty and devotion of His Highness, and we have been pleased to welcome him on many pleasant occasions when he has visited Britain.” [11]

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Memoirs of Aga Khan French edition Barakah and Simerg
A portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Mata Salamat Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan, in the French edition of the Memoirs of Aga Khan.

Two weeks after the succession of the new Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan in 1957, Queen Elizabeth bestowed the title of His Highness upon him in the tradition of her predecessors. Although the British Empire had irreparably eroded into an emerging world of nation-states, the reinvestment of the title underscored the continued importance of the Imam on the world stage. Aga Khan IV was to demonstrate over the decades of his Imamat, the office and institution he represented was able to transcend political and geographical ties in a constantly evolving world. This enviable position allowed him to play a unique role in the Muslim world and on the global stage. This was in addition to his transnational community, whose many members continued to live in the independent countries once part of British dominions.

While in the Western world, colonialism was simply an ideology, subjects who experienced this rule first-hand often had very mixed and sometimes devastating experiences. Despite this, one of the greatest legacies of Queen Elizabeth will be the creation of the Commonwealth and the facilitation of the various movements towards independence throughout Asia and Africa. Like the Imamat, the British monarch also was responsible for stewarding and bringing together diverse groups of people under a common cause.

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His Highness the Aga Khan's support enabled contingents from four Commonwealth countries to participate in a spectacular equestrian event honouring the Queen on her Golden Jubilee in May 2002. Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s support enabled contingents from four Commonwealth countries to participate in a spectacular equestrian event honouring the Queen on her Golden Jubilee in May 2002.

In May 2002, Mawlana Hazar Imam joined ambassadors from Commonwealth nations as well as the United States and France to honour the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. Recognizing the shared history and traditions of these countries and the strength of diplomatic lineages that had been forged, His Highness the Aga Khan remarked, “This event serves to acknowledge the Commonwealth’s importance in maintaining good relations among countries through both good and less good times in their shared history.” He continued, “The event honours the personal attention that Her Majesty the Queen has accorded to that history and the admirable manner in which she has exercised, and continues to exercise, the challenging role of Head of the Commonwealth.” The culmination to her Golden Jubilee celebrations and the crown of this event was the “All the Queen’s Horses” event, the largest of its kind in the world.

In 2020, Mawlana Hazar Imam attended the Annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on special invitation by the Queen. He is currently the Vice-President of the Commonwealth Society which was under the patronage of the Queen until her death with the now-Queen Consort Camilla as its Vice Patron. In March 2022, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, the eldest son of the Ismaili Imam, attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey at the Queen’s invitation, representing Mawlana Hazar Imam. In Prince Rahim’s capacity as Vice-President Designate, he led the Loyal Societies and met with Charles, then Prince of Wales, who represented Her Majesty at the service as well as Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This year’s service had marked the beginning of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

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Commonwealth service to mark Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
A section of page 3 of The Commonwealth Service held at Westminster Abbey on Monday March 14, 2022, at which Prince Rahim Aga Khan represented Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click image to view the complete PDF file of the service.

The Queen, or her representative, were often seen along Mawlana Hazar Imam at events of mutual importance and international significance. These included independence events of a number of countries which were previously under British rule and where the Imam had communal representation or followers. At one of these occasions, on December 12, 1963, the Duke of Edinburgh and Mawlana Hazar Imam were both present in Nairobi, Kenya, to witness and participate in the handover of the instruments of independence to Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta. Representatives of 78 countries were in attendance along with those from the Vatican and the United Nations.

Like his predecessor, the Imam also received honours from the British Monarchy. In 2004, the Imam received the title of Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) from Queen Elizabeth II.

Mawlana Hazar Imam also had warm and friendly relations with the current King Charles III. They shared common interests and a commitment to bettering the world around them and met publicly on numerous occasions while Charles was still Prince of Wales. Their respect extended to each other’s responsibilities and many of these meetings allowed them to better understand the breadth and scope of each other’s work and how it improved the wellbeing of its beneficiaries. Aga Khan IV welcomed the then-Prince Charles to Al-Azhar Park in Egypt’s capital, Cairo in March 2006 and hosted him later that year in Pakistan as they toured development projects in the South Asian country.

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Special Presentation: His Highness the Aga Khan and King Charles III – An Album of Photographs and Speech Excerpts from the Last 30 Years

[IMPORTANT NOTE: A number of images in this section are reproduced under a licensing arrangement with Alamy photos, and may not be reproduced without Alamy’s written permission — Ed.]

OCTOBER 1993: Prince Charles and His Highness Aga Khan at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

“I believe wholeheartedly that the links between these two worlds matter more today than ever before, because the degree of misunderstanding between the Islamic and Western worlds remains dangerously high, and because the need for the two to live and work together in our increasingly interdependent world has never been greater….

“It is odd, in many ways, that misunderstandings between Islam and the West should persist. For that which binds our two worlds together is so much more powerful than that which divides us. Muslims, Christians — and Jews — are all ‘peoples of the Book’. Islam and Christianity share a common monotheistic vision: a belief in one divine God, in the transience of our earthly life, in our accountability for our actions, and in the assurance of life to come.

“We share many key values in common: respect for knowledge, for justice, compassion towards the poor and underprivileged, the importance of family life, respect for parents. ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’ is a Quranic precept too. Our history has been closely bound up together” — Excerpts from speech Islam and the West by Prince Charles, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, October 27, 1993

Aga Khan and the Bitish Crown, Simerg and Barakah, King Charles speech Islam and the west
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Prince Charles and the Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Dr. Farham Nizami, at a lecture presented by Prince Charles on “Islam and the West” at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on October 27, 1993. Photograph: The Ismaili, Canada, March 1994.

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NOVEMBER 1993: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at the University of Wales

The Aga Khan and the British Crown, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Prince Charles, Chancellor of the University of Wales, and other members of the Chancellor’s procession “doff” their caps following the award of the honorary degree of the Doctor of Laws (LL. D) to Mawlana Hazar Imam on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Wales, November 30, 1993. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1994.

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The Aga Khan and the British Crown, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in conversation with Prince Charles as President Mary Robinson of Ireland signs the Visitors’ Book at a banquet held on November 30, 1993 at the Cardiff City Hall honouring recipients of Honorary Degrees earlier during the day on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Wales. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, March 1994.

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DECEMBER 1997: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at Asia Society in London

Aga Khan and Charles at Asia House to celebrate 50th anniversary of independence Pakistan and India, Ismaili Imamat and British Crown
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, greets Prince Charles at a special banquet hosted in July 1997 by the Asia Society to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan. Photograph: The Ismaili Canada, December 1997.

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MARCH 2006: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at Al Azhar Park, Cairo

Aga Khan and King Charles III Al Azhar Park, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, welcomes HRH The Prince of Wales (now King Charless III) and The Duchess of Cornwall (now Queen Consort) to Al-Azhar Park in March 2006 at the beginning of their official 2-week to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte.

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NOVEMBER 2006: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan in Northern Pakistan

Prince Charles and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan visit a mountain village near Skardu in Northern Pakistan on November 3, 2006.
Prince Charles and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan visit a mountain village near Skardu in Northern Pakistan on November 3, 2006. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were hosted by Mawlana Hazar Imam on a tour of development projects in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The Royal visitors viewed restoration work undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the traditional settlement of Altit, in the Hunza Valley of Pakistan, and also visited the “organic village” of Nansoq, where a programme supported by the Aga Khan Foundation is designed to demonstrate the viability of organic agricultural production. Photograph: © Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment via Alamy. Please click on photo for enlargement.

“….. if I may say so, [the Ismaili Imamat] is that same leadership and vision which has enabled the Aga Khan Development Network to grow into an organization of international importance, addressing development needs in some thirty-five countries around the World, bridging boundaries of race and religion. My darling wife and I were privileged to see some of this work, towards the end of last year [November 2006], in Altit and Nansoq villages in Northern Pakistan — in fact I was devastated when I had to leave behind the gift I was given, in Altit: a very beautifully shampooed Yak! I got a crate to bring it back, and actually I think a Yak is the only rare breed I haven’t got” — Prince Charles’ reference to the yak (see photo below) was made during his speech at the opening of the Spirit and Life Exhibition on July 12, 2007, at the Ismaili Centre London. Please read the full speech HERE

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (right) admire a yak, during a walking tour of Altit Mountain village in northern Pakistan.
The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (right) admire a yak, during a walking tour of Altit Mountain village in northern Pakistan. The Prince and the Duchess were hosted by Mawlana Hazar Imam, on a tour of development projects in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The Royal visitors viewed restoration work undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the traditional settlement of Altit, in the Hunza Valley of Pakistan, and also visited the “organic village” of Nansoq, where a programme supported by the Aga Khan Foundation is designed to demonstrate the viability of organic agricultural production. Photograph: © Alamy. Please click on photo for enlargement.

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JULY 2007: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Opening of Spirit and Life Exhibition, Ismaili Centre, London

Prince Charles (L), Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Duchess of Cornwall bow their heads as they listen to an Islamic prayer at the opening of the Spirit and Life Exhibition at the Ismaili Centre London on July 12, 2007.
Prince Charles (L), Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Duchess of Cornwall bow their heads as they listen to an Islamic prayer at the opening of the Spirit and Life Exhibition at the Ismaili Centre London on July 12, 2007. The exhibition showcased the beauty, diversity and rich legacy of Islamic Art, and was launched as His Highness the Aga Khan commenced his Golden Jubilee Year. Photograph: © Alamy. Please click on photo for enlargement.

“Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is for my wife and I to join you this afternoon in celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Highness the Aga Khan’s succession to the Imamat. It is, if I may say so, London’s great good fortune that His Highness has chosen to open his Golden Jubilee celebrations with the ‘Spirit and Life’ Exhibition which my wife and I have just seen – we had to drag ourselves away from it! I understand that this is the first time these masterpieces of Islamic art have been seen in London. They are of quite exceptional historical importance and beauty. But, perhaps still more importantly, they also convey the clearest possible message about the close ties between the Abrahamic Faiths. For example, the magnificent Eleventh Century Canon of Medicine, which originated in Iran, was equally indispensable to Western scholars for the better part of five hundred years.” — Excerpt from speech made by Prince Charles at the opening of the Spirit and Life Exhibition on July 12, 2007. Please read the full speech HERE.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall , attend the opening of the Islamic Art Exhibition hosted by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (R) Aga Khan, at the Ismaili Centre in London on July 12, 2007, with co-curators Alnoor Merchant (L) and Sheila Canby (C) providing highlights of the artefacts
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall , attend the opening of the Spirit and Life Exhibition hosted by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (R), at the Ismaili Centre in London on July 12, 2007, with co-curators Alnoor Merchant (L) and Sheila Canby (C) accompanying the party to provide details of the artefacts. The exhibition showcased the beauty, diversity and rich legacy of Islamic Art. Photo: © Alamy. Please click on photo for enlargement.

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NOVEMBER 2010: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Ismaili Centre London on its 25th Anniversary

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, receives Prince Charles at the Ismaili Centre, London, on November 18, 2010, to commemorate its 25th anniversary
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, receives Prince Charles at the Ismaili Centre, London, on November 18, 2010, to commemorate its 25th anniversary. Photograph: © Alamy. Please click on photo for enlargement.

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JUNE 2018: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Opening of the Aga Khan Centre, London

“Your Highness, the extraordinary work that you have done throughout your lifetime, in the service of humanity and in the name of Islam, is as remarkable as it is invaluable. For that, you are owed the greatest debt of gratitude and I did just want to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of us all, if I may.

“It is clear to me that in holding dear the values of humility, honour, magnanimity and hospitality, the Ismaili Community takes its inspiration from you, Your Highness, and from your extraordinary ‘Greatness of Soul’.” — Prince Charles, Aga Khan Centre Opening, June 26, 2018. Please read the full speech HERE

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, HRH The Prince of Wales opened The Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Situated at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, the Aga Khan Centre, designed by Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, one of Japan’s most distinguished contemporary architects, provides a new home for a number of UK based organisations founded by His Highness the Aga Khan: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK).
On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, King Charles III (then The Prince of Wales opened) The Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Situated at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, the Aga Khan Centre, designed by Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, one of Japan’s most distinguished contemporary architects, provides a new home for a number of UK based organisations founded by His Highness the Aga Khan: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK).
Aga Khan and the British Monarchy, Prince Charles now King Charless III at Aga Khan Centre inauguration Barakah dedicated to Hazar Imam
Prince Charles and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, discuss the features of the Garden of Life at the new Aga Khan Centre in London with garden designer Madison Coxon during the inauguration of the Centre on June 26, 2018. Photograph: AKDN/Nayyir Damani.

In similarly inspiring this Centre, you have set it on a path to serve the world with great distinction, just as Your Highness has yourself done throughout your remarkable life. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to see just what an inspiration you are to your community when we accompanied you to Altit years ago. Never will we forget that occasion nor, for that matter, the magnificently shampoo-ed bull yak with which I was presented and which, very sadly, I was unable to transport back to Highgrove to graze in my Islamic Garden! — Prince Charles, Aga Khan Centre Opening, June 26, 2018. Please read the full speech HERE.

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MARCH 2019: Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan at Buckingham Palace

 Prince Charles named Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as Global Founding Patron of The Prince’s Trust’s work. They are pictured at a dinner at Buckingham Palace on March 12, 2019.
Prince Charles named Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as Global Founding Patron of The Prince’s Trust’s work. They are pictured at a dinner at Buckingham Palace on March 12, 2019. Photograph: Ian Jones/AKDN.

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Rizwan Mawani’s article continues here

During the Imam’s Golden Jubilee, Mawlana Hazar Imam welcomed the Prince of Wales to the Ismaili Centre London on July 12, 2007, to view the Spirit and Life Exhibition showcasing the beauty, diversity and rich legacy of Islamic Art. Many of these artifacts are now on display at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. In June 2018, Prince Charles opened the Aga Khan Centre in London in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The Aga Khan Centre is the current home of the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilization, The Institute of Ismaili Studies as well as a research library and residences for students. In 2019, Mawlana Hazar Imam was appointed as a Global Founding Partner of the Prince’s Trust UK, then under the patronage of the future King Charles. There have been other occasions when the current King, His Majesty Charles III, as well as members of his family met or honoured Mawlana Hazar Imam that illustrate the bond between the Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy.

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The Aga Khan and the British Crown, Princess Anne University of London, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature in Education at the University of London by Princess Anne, Chancellor of the University, on October 12, 1989. Photograph: UK Ismaili Newsletter, November/December 1989.

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Doctor of Divinity degree to Aga Khan at Cambridge who is pictured with the Duke of Edinburgh; Barakah and Simerg
On June 12, 2009, the University of Cambridge, conferred Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan with a Doctor of Divinity, the first Muslim ever to have received this degree. The Late Duke of Edinburgh was the Chancellor of the University and he is seen in the front row with Mawana Hazar Imam and the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Alison Richard. Also in the photograph are other Honorary degree recipients. Photograph: University of Cambridge via The Ismaili Canada, December 2009.

The relationship between the Imamat and the British Monarchy has also extended to members of each of the institutions’ families and their representatives. A result of their mutual interests and common dedication to the service of humanity has also meant celebrating milestones and achievements in addition to co-operation on programmes and projects.

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Lady Aly Shah Aga Khan, Barakah
Lady Aly Shah, mother of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah.

Aga Khan II’s wife and mother of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Shamsul Muluk, more commonly known as Lady Aly Shah, was an important contributor to welfare projects throughout the British Empire. She was a champion for women’s rights, a skilled fundraiser and a force of change for both the Ismaili community as well as for Muslim women in India. For many years she was president of the influential Mohammedan Purdah Ladies Committee which held its first major conference in 1911. As part of this work, she formed strong relationships with a number of the wives of the Viceroys, or Governors-General of India, including Lady Willingdon. For her dedication and service to humanity, she was honoured with the title of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, membership which is normally reserved for Queens, ruling princesses and the Vicerenes. For the occasion, she travelled to London at the age of 86 where she was personally invested by King George V.

On the occasion of the funeral and Committal Ceremony of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on September 19, 2022, Mawlana Hazar Imam was represented by his son Prince Rahim at the service. Members of the Imam’s family were also present during a dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of Aga Khan IV’s Golden Jubilee in 2008 and at Windsor Castle in 2018 for his Diamond Jubilee.

Likewise, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, met with Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Aga Khan Centre in London on October 2, 2019, for an event that preceded their tour of Pakistan later that month.

Article concludes below

His Highness the Aga Khan together with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, during a dinner hosted in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan at Buckingham Palace to commemorate his Golden Jubilee, London, 7 July 2008. Photograph: AKDN / Gary Otte
Mawlana Hazar imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, together with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, during a dinner hosted in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan at Buckingham Palace to commemorate his Golden Jubilee, London, July 7, 2008. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte

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Aga Khan Golden Jubilee at Buckingham Palace
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, presents his second son, Prince Hussain, to Her Majesty the Queen. His brother, Prince Amyn, and his oldest son Prince Rahim prepare to be greeted by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Cornwall, as Princess Yasmin, his sister, looks on. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

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Court Circular

March 8

Buckingham Palace

8th March, 2018

The Queen gave a Dinner Party for The Aga Khan at Windsor Castle this evening to mark His Highness’s Diamond Jubilee at which The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke of York, The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and Members of The Aga Khan’s Family were present.

The Duke of Edinburgh this morning received Mr Martin Palmer (Secretary General, Alliance of Religions and Conservation).

The Prince of Wales, on behalf of The Queen, held an Investiture at Buckingham Palace this morning.

[Note: The Court Circular is the official record of royal engagements and appears daily in the London Times — Ed.]

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The Aga Khan and the British Monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee at Windsor Castle Barakah
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a dinner hosted on March 8, 2018 by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

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Aga Khan and the British Crown Prince William
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, welcomes Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at the Aga Khan Centre in London on October 2, 2019. Photo: The Ismaili/Anya Campbell

The article has shown that the relationship of the Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy blossomed beginning in the 19th century. Through many monarchs and 4 Ismaili Imams, beginning with Aga Khan I, we have outlined their relationship of respect, cooperation and friendship over the last 150 years from Queen Victoria to King Charles. This relationship is illustrated in the chart shown above at the beginning of this article.

Date posted: October 6, 2022.
Last updated: October 7, 2022.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rizwan Mawani The Aga Khans, the Imamat and the British Crown, Barakah and Simerg, Queen Elizabth II, King Charles III
Rizwan Mawani

Rizwan Mawani has a background in Anthropology and Religious Studies and is the author of Beyond the Mosque: Diverse Places of Muslim Worship (I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2019). Rizwan has written for a wide variety of audiences and his work has appeared in academic publications, encyclopedias as well as the Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post. Rizwan was previously Website Content Editor and Research Coordinator in the Department of Constituency Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. His current research focuses on the past two centuries of global Ismaili history with a focus on the jamatkhana and its development during that period.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to almost 2000 pieces published since the website was created in 2009. Also visit Simerg’s two sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Barakah’s editor may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Malik may be followed @Facebook and @Twitter.

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NOTES

[1] The Times of India, January 24, 1887, p. 7
[2] The Times of India, February 19, 1898, p. 5
[3] The Times of India, May 23, 1898, p. 4
[4] The Times of India, July 7, 1902, p. 6
[5] The Times of India, June 3, 1903, p. 5
[6] The Times of India, May 14, 1910, p. 9
[7] The Times of India, May 9, 1910, p. 5
[8] Rand Daily Mail (Johannesburg), May 16, 1910, p. 7
[9] The Times of India, May 28, 1910, p. 10
[10] The Times of India¸ May 30, 1910, p. 6
[11] Times of India, July 13, 1957.

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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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