Kabul residents walking on the street at Taimany Square.

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

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

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

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

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

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

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


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

[This is our Ismaili correspondent’s second letter to provide the global Ismaili Jamat with reliable information regarding recent development of the living conditions of the Jamat in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Read the first letter HERE. We advise readers to note that in some cases the same information may be repeated in multiple reports — Ed.]

Dear Jamats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: August 29, 2021.

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

Recent pieces on Afghanistan in Simerg:

[1]. Letter from Afghanistan (1);

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

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

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

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

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

Provincial Map of Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

[1]. Letter from Afghanistan (1);

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: August 27, 2021.

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

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

Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces. The provinces of Afghanistan are the primary administrative divisions. Each province encompasses a number of districts or usually over 1,000 villages. Population (2020 estimate): 32,890,171; Largest city Kabul (capital), population 4.6 million. At left, Provincial map of Afghanistan. Key (alphabetical order): Badakhshan (30); Badghis (4); Baghlan (19); Balkh (13), Bamyan (15), Daykundi (10), Farah (2), Faryab (5); Ghazni (16); Ghor (6), Helmand (7); Herat (1); Jowzjan (8); Kabul (22), Kandahar (12); Kapisa (29); Khost (26); Kunar (34); Kunduz (18); Laghman (32); Logar (23); Nangarhar (33); Nimruz (3); Nuristan (31); Paktia (24); Paktika (25); Panjshir (28); Parwan (20); Samangan (14); Sar-e Pol (9); Takhar (27); Uruzgan (11); Maidan Wardak (21); and Zabul (17).

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

street scene kabul after taliban takeover august 2021

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

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

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

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

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

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

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN: REALITIES ON THE GROUND


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: August 26, 2021.

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

Chihilsitoon Garden and palace rehabilitation in Kabul, Afghanistan. AKDN / Simon Norfolk featured image

August 25, 2021: Aga Khan Development Network’s Commitment to Afghanistan and Its People; and Overview of AKDN’s Work in the Country for the Last 25 Years

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

PRESS RELEASE

In a press release issued in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 25, 2021, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) stated as follows:

“The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is firmly committed to its core mandate of undertaking a range of innovative programmes and projects to improve the quality of life of communities in many parts of the world.

“In Afghanistan, AKDN agencies have a longstanding engagement with a wide range of activities including healthcare, education, early childhood development, agriculture, rural infrastructure and economic opportunity, energy provision, climate resilience, telecommunications, cultural heritage conservation, and hospitality.

“AKDN’s operations are designed to adapt to evolving contexts and circumstances to ensure sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency. Based in Kabul, His Highness the Aga Khan’s Envoy, Akbar Pesnani, and the President of the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan, Amir Baig, also appointed by His Highness, will maintain ongoing co-ordination with the authorities, local communities, donor agencies, and other stakeholders who have supported AKDN’s programmes and initiatives over the past several decades.

“AKDN looks forward to continuing to work for Afghanistan’s peaceful and prosperous future, and to improving further the quality of life of the Afghan people.”

The press release also included the following contact information for further inquiries:

(1) Office of the Envoy of His Highness the Aga Khan to Afghanistan (Akbar Pesnani): Envoy.Afghanistan@AKDN.org

(2) Office of the President of the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan (Amir Baig): eo.nc@iiafg.org; and

(3) Media Enquiries: Media.Afghanistan@AKDN.org.

Note: For Farsi version of the press release please click HERE

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AFGHANISTAN MAPS
(Provincial and Country)

Provincial Map of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces The provinces of Afghanistan are the primary administrative divisions. Each province encompasses a number of districts or usually over 1,000 villages. Population 2020, estimate): 32, 890,171; Largest city Kabul (capital), population 4.6 million. At left, Provincial map of Afghanistan. Key (alphabetical order): Badakhshan (30); Badghis (4); Baghlan (19); Balkh (13), Bamyan (15), Daykundi (10), Farah (2), Faryab (5); Ghazni (16); Ghor (6), Helmand (7); Herat (1); Jowzjan (8); Kabul (22), Kandahar (12); Kapisa (29); Khost (26); Kunar (34); Kunduz (18); Laghman (32); Logar (23); Nangarhar (33); Nimruz (3); Nuristan (31); Paktia (24); Paktika (25); Panjshir (28); Parwan (20); Samangan (14); Sar-e Pol (9); Takhar (27); Uruzgan (11); Maidan Wardak (21); and Zabul (17). Credit: Joshbaumgartner via Wikepedia, Public Domain. Right: Map of Afghanistan with key cities. Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas. Click on image for enlargement.

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COMPREHENSIVE OVERVIEW OF AKDN’S WORK IN AFGHANISTAN

(1) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

AKDN Afghanistan, Simerg Overview Malik Merchant
n Afghanistan, the village of Khaftar Khana, with the support of AKF, built a micro-hydel unit that provides electricity throughout the night to 23 households. Photo: AKDN/Sandra Calligaro

To stimulate long-term economic growth in the country, AKDN operates across the spectrum, from working with women and youth in isolated rural communities to help create their own start-up businesses, to building micro-hydroelectric plants that help light homes, schools and health facilities in these remote villages, to investing in large-scale mobile phone services that provide network coverage to more than 6.5 million Afghans across the country’s 34 provinces. In cases like the latter, because of its institutional background and ethical framework, AKDN’s criteria for making commercial investments are not those of a typical investor.  Investment decisions are based on whether a particular investment will improve the quality of life of those affected by it, not simply on bottom-line profitability. Profits that are generated are then reinvested in development initiatives….MORE

(2) PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE

Natural Resources Management (NRM) Заседание CDC (Совет по развитию населённых пунктов на уровне кластеров) в Джурме, Афганистан. Участники обсуждают острую необходимость привлечения добровольцев для помощи в ремонте системы водоснабжения, размытой проливными дождями. Эта система была создана благодаря коллективной работе нескольких сообществ, предоставивших денежные средства и рабочую силу. AKF оказывал техническую поддержку. AKDN / Sandra Calligaro
Photo: AKDN / Sandra Calligaro.

Since 2003, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has worked on building human and institutional capacity as a Facilitating Partner for the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), a government programme that establishes Community Development Councils (CDCs) across Afghanistan. The programme is intended to empower local communities to identify and implement their own development projects…..MORE (Under Agriculture and Food Security)

(3) NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT (NRM)

Photo: AKDN / Sandra Calligaro

With around 80 percent of the Afghan population dependent on agriculture, interventions in this sector are central to reducing poverty rates.  Over the past 10 years, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)’s agriculture and NRM programme has transitioned from distribution of agricultural commodities to more sustainable activities that have led to increased production, improved food security, and stronger connections to markets for local farmers….. MORE

(4) CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

AKDN’s cultural development activities are aimed at conserving and restoring Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, while stimulating local economic development and improving the quality of life for people living in surrounding neighbourhoods in Kabul, Herat and Balkh

Chihilsitoon Garden rehabilitation in Kabul, Afghanistan. AKTC / Simon Norfolk

KABUL: Since 2003, war-damaged quarters of the old city of Kabul have been the focus of an AKDN programme (the Aga Khan Trust for Culture) to conserve key historic buildings, including houses, mosques, shrines and public facilities.  Upgrading works have also improved living conditions for some 15,000 residents of the old city in the neighbourhoods of Asheqan wa Arefan, Chindawol and Kuche Kharabat… MORE

In 2008 the AKDN, in partnership with the Afghan Government, began the restoration of the Ikhtyaruddin Citadel in Herat. AKDN / Simon Norfolk

HERAT: Herat has long been a city of strategic, commercial and cultural significance. It came under the rule of the Abbasid caliphate at the end of the eighth century and was renowned for the production of metalwork.  At a crossroads between competing armies, traders and cultures, Herat was home to Persians, Pushtuns, Uzbeks, Turkomans, Baluchs and Hazaras.  In the fourteenth century, it was sacked by Timur, only to experience a renaissance under the rule of his son Shah Rukh.  Though repeatedly ravaged by war throughout its history, many significant Islamic monuments have survived.  Beginning in 2005 and running over the course of the next decade, the Trust worked hard to safeguard this unique heritage…. MORE

Restoration of Noh Gunbad Mosque, Balkh restoration projects, Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Afghanistan. AKDN / Simon Norfolk

BALKH: With the help of a number of partners, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture helped restore the Khwaja Parsa Shrine Complex and the Noh Gumbad Mosque in the northern province of Balkh…. MORE.

(5) HABITAT

akdn AFGHANISTAN
A water pump constructed by AKDN agencies to provide villagers in Gazar, Doshi District, Afghanistan with access to clean water. Photo: AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

In Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) − previously Focus Humanitarian Assistance − engages with communities living in remote mountainous areas to increase their resilience to natural disasters and complex emergencies.  The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat also supports communities to utilize an enabling habitat to enhance their health, education and economic development. 

The approach is to predict where possible potential emergencies may impact homes and livelihoods, identify structural and non-structural interventions that can prevent or mitigate the impact of those hazards, and to build the capacities of communities and local and national governments to reduce their vulnerability to risk and to increase their capacities to help their neighbours.  

To enable this, AKAH implements a wide range of disaster prevention and response initiatives in local communities, including disaster preparedness trainings, vulnerability assessments, risk mitigation activities and disaster relief efforts…. MORE (includes sections on Disaster Risk Reduction, Capacity Building, Community-based interventions, Water and Sanitation, and External Partnerships).

(6) HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

AKDN Afghanistan
On Friday 7th October 2016, AKAH donated 125 tents and 100 Non Food Item packages to the Governor of Takhar to support 750 Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Kunduz. Photo: Focus.

Afghanistan is highly prone to multiple natural disasters including earthquakes, landslides, flooding and avalanches.  Earthquakes occur frequently, particularly in the mountainous north and north-eastern areas of the country, and often trigger landslides.  Floods are common in the spring when snow begins to melt and rainfall is heavy.  Many of the communities at risk are located in remote areas, and disaster relief efforts are made more difficult by the volatile security situation.  The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) – formerly Focus Humanitarian Assistance – has been active in Afghanistan since 1996, when it was set up to respond to the acute food shortages caused by the ongoing conflict.

Emergency Management teams train to respond to disasters while conducting hazard and risk assessments.  They also work to improve risk anticipation through the establishment of Early Warning Systems.  AKAH has so far trained tens of thousands of volunteers for disaster response and management across Central and South Asia…. MORE

(7) MICROFINANCE

AKDN Afghanistan Aga Khan Development Network
A baker from Pul-i-Khumri is happy to be able to set up his business, thanks to a small loan from Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. Photo: AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

The microfinance sector only reaches about 227,000 borrowers in the country, less than 1 percent of the adult population. AKDN established microcredit programmes as early as 2002.  In 2004, it launched First Microfinance Bank, the first of its kind under the country’s new regulatory structure. AKDN has pioneered the provision of innovative and flexible microfinance products in the country, which play an important role in driving economic development in rural areas…. MORE

Date Posted: August 26, 2021.

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

To the Women of Afghanistan: Your Accomplishment in the Struggle for Social Justice and Dignity in the Last 20 Years Is Remarkable; Let Your Story and that of Bibi Khadijah (a.s.) Be a Powerful Trampoline of Progress for the People of Afghanistan and Around the Muslim World

Khadijah calligraphy
The Islamic phrase “Umm ul Muminin”(Mother of the believers) is followed in the centre by”Khadijah”; the bottom contains the Islamic honoric phrase “Radhi allahu anha” (May Allah be pleased with her). Credit: Maajid Shafi (own work), Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. Note: This art work is not part of the article posted below.

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When her father died, the young woman [Khadijah] took charge of the family business, which thrived and grew under her direction. Compassionate as well as hard-working, Khadijah gave a great deal of money to help others — assisting the poor, sick, disabled, widows, orphans, and giving poor couples money to marry

Khadijah – First Woman of Islam

Article Credit: From The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Tapestry of Faith curriculum, Building Bridges (Read article at source HERE)

Remarkable women have done remarkable things in every part of the world in every time in history. Most of their accomplishments were not recorded in history books. While just as brilliant, creative, and courageous as men, women in many societies have been valued less, and often their contributions discounted, not recorded at all, or attributed to men. Notable exceptions were women so extraordinary their worth could not be ignored or minimized. One such woman, revered by billions, is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (Khadijah, daughter of Khuwaylid), born in Mekka in 555 CE.

Khadijah was born to a life of privilege. Her family was important in Mecca and quite wealthy; she could have lived a life of ease all her days. Khadijah, however, was an intelligent and industrious young woman who enjoyed business and became very skilled. When her father died, the young woman took charge of the family business, which thrived and grew under her direction. Compassionate as well as hard-working, Khadijah gave a great deal of money to help others –assisting the poor, sick, disabled, widows, orphans, and giving poor couples money to marry.

Twice Khadijah married, and when each of her husbands died, she overcame her grief and continued to rear her small children and run her successful caravan business by herself. Khadijah had many employees, including the important position of her agent, who traveled with her caravans, negotiated deals in other cities, and took charge of the large amounts of money involved in the trading business.

When Khadijah was 40 years old, she was widely known in Arabia as a powerful, smart, independent woman, and many men wanted to work for her. However, when she needed to hire an agent, she did not hire any of the men who eagerly sought the job. Instead, she selected a hard-working young man named Muhammad who had the reputation of being honest and diligent. Muhammad was only 25 years old when he accepted the job, but he proved to be an excellent employee and a courteous and ethical man. Within a fairly short time Khadijah concluded he would be a suitable partner in life, as well, and so she, Khadijah, proposed marriage to Muhammad.

The difference in their ages was 15 years, but there was never a question of their complete devotion to each other. Muhammad continued to work for Khadijah’s caravan business, and they had six children together, although only one of the children, a girl named Fatimah, lived to adulthood. Khadijah and Muhammad lived happily in this busy, productive way for 15 years, but when Muhammad was 40 their lives took a radical turn.

Khadijah encouraged Muhammad to leave the business and preach full time. She financially supported him so he could preach with all his heart and energy; she sustained him in this way for the rest of her life. When necessary, she supported his followers, too.

Muhammad meditated in a cave outside Mecca from time to time, and one afternoon he returned home from the cave exhausted and frightened, calling to Khadijah for help. He told her the angel Gabriel had spoken to him with a message from God, but he did not know what it meant. Khadijah believed Muhammad. She assured him he was sane and that this news was good, not fearful. Khadijah became the first convert to Islam, and remained Muhammad’s most staunch believer, ally, and friend through the trials that lay ahead.

Khadijah encouraged Muhammad to leave the business and preach full time. She financially supported him so he could preach with all his heart and energy; she sustained him in this way for the rest of her life. When necessary, she supported his followers, too. In the early years, when the growth of Islam was slow and increasingly dangerous, Khadijah protected Muhammad with her political power and influence. As time passed, Muhammad’s compelling word gained followers, and just as steadily, city leaders became more alarmed and wanted Muhammad arrested. Eventually, when the authorities could not be kept away and finally came for him, Khadijah left her comfortable home to join her husband, Muhammad, in hiding. Three years of rugged living followed, during which Khadijah depleted her entire large fortune supporting the followers of Islam. Her wealth was gone and her health strained to the breaking point by deprivation. However, her spirits remained high and her devotion never flagged. Finally, the brave, honorable, and faithful Khadijah became ill and died.

Muhammad revered Khadijah’s memory the rest of his life, and consistently held her up to both men and women as a model of intelligence, virtue, courage, and devotion to family and to God

The year Khadijah died was 619 CE. She was 65 years old, and she and Muhammad had been partners for 25 years. Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib also died that year, and Muhammad called 619 the Year of Sorrow. It is known in Islamic history as the Year of Sorrow to this day.

Khadijah is recognized as a great woman. Muhammad revered Khadijah’s memory the rest of his life, and consistently held her up to both men and women as a model of intelligence, virtue, courage, and devotion to family and to God. During the 25 years of their marriage, Muhammad remained married only to Khadijah. After Khadijah died, Muhammad had numerous wives at once as was the custom of that time.

Khadijah is revered by Muslims worldwide, honored with the titles First Believer and Mother of Believers. Muslims believe Islam is the true faith, originating with Adam and Eve, so the work of Muhammad did not create Islam. However, its success is in great part due to Khadijah’s unwavering support in its formative years.

Date posted: August 25, 2021.

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Khadijah calligraphy
Calligraphy by Maajid Shafi (own work), Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

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

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

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

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Flowers

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

(Click on photos for enlargement)

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

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Last Word: The Pigeons and the Hibiscus

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

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

Date posted: August 22, 2021.

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Another version of this post appears in Simergphotos.

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

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

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

Advisory

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

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

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

Afghanistan Helpline

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

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

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

Prayers

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

Reader’s Feedback

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

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

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We invite our readers to submit their reflections, thoughts and prayers on the situation in Afghanistan by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

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.

Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible

Essays and Letters: The Black Pearl!

By KARIM LADHA

It was the summer of ’77: hot, humid days and nights in Hogtown! Hit tunes on the radio were “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart and “(The) Best of My Love” by The Emotions.

I saw an ad in our apartment building’s laundry room for a Dodge Challenger R/T (denotes Road/Track, a performance marker used on Dodge vehicles since the 1960’s).

It was a polo green colour with a white vinyl roof, a 4-speed manual transmission with a cue-ball shifter, white vinyl bucket seats, a V-8 426 HEMI engine, generating 425 HP of pure adrenaline power in the iconic 1970 model year!

Rewind to May 1, 1973 when our family landed in Toronto from Tanzania. I was completely fascinated by the American ‘Muscle Cars’ – the Pontiac Trans Am, Firebird, GTO, the Chevy Corvette, Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Charger, the AMC Javelin, but the car that caught my imagination and fascination was the Dodge Challenger! (and its sister car – the Plymouth Barracuda, affectionately called the ‘CUDA! – there was even a hit song about the car!). There was something about the Challenger – its front muscular stance, the contour lines sloping to the rear bumpers, the cut air vents in the hood, the growl of its engine; just the feeling of immense power and invincibility it conveyed! I knew the specs of all the muscle cars from my subscription to Hemmings Magazine, and then there was the famous 1971 movie featuring a 1970 Challenger R/T as the star, called “Vanishing Point”, with Barry Newman (and then a made for TV copycat, which also was a hit).

Back to the Challenger for sale via the ad in the laundry room of 20 Edgecliffe Golfway in Don Mills. I was so excited and ripped off the ad from the notice board, so no one else would see it!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, with V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque simerg, essays and letters Karim Ladha.
Karim Ladha (right) with son, Raheem, pictured by The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque. A rocket indeed, as noted on the vehicle plate! Photo: Shereen Ladha.

I excitedly ran home and called the number. The car was in the underground parking and could be had for a mere $3K! Now, in 1977, $3K was like $13K in today’s dollars! Still, I felt it was a great deal and asked to see the car. It belonged to an elderly couple who were the original owners and were only selling it as they rarely used the car anymore. We struck up a great relationship and they were really keen on selling it to me, especially after hearing about my passion for Challengers! They reduced the price to $2,500.00 only for me, and let me drive it multiple times! I remember it being all the feeling of power and invincibility I had dreamed of and more!

However, reality quickly set in and for a 19 year old in my 2nd year of University, it was virtually  impossible for me come up with that kind of money in such a short time. I even asked my uncle for a loan, who thought it was the dumbest idea I had ever come up with (reflecting back on it, I can’t say I disagree!). Alas, I had to let it go, but I promised myself I would buy a beautiful Challenger one day! Dodge discontinued the Challenger in 1974, a victim of the Petro Crisis of the 70s!   

Fast forward to the Fall of 2020, in the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns. I saw an ad in the Hemmings magazine (now online), for a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, pearl black colour, with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque! A real beast!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible Simerg Essays and Letters Karim Ladha
The well laid out and beautiful interior of Karim Ladha’s The Black Pearl, a 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Convertible. Photo: Shereen Ladha.
Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible
Karim Ladha leans against his dream car, The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, outside the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Photo: Shereen Ladha.

Dodge had brought back the Challenger in 2008 as a ‘retro’ model, but never made a convertible. The owner in New Brunswick had purchased the car new and had it shipped in a closed container to a custom car shop in Florida called DropTop Customs. They transformed the car into a convertible!

I called immediately and after a few weeks of back and forth haggling on the hefty price, I finally purchased my Challenger – after 43 long years!

I call the car “The Black Pearl” after the namesake ship in one of my favourite movie series – “The Pirates of the Caribbean”!

Date posted: August 19, 2021.

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Simerg invites Essays and Letters from Ismaili writers who have established themselves in literary circles as well as anyone who has a love and passion for writing. Please submit your piece for consideration and possible publication on this website to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

Karim Ladha
Karim Ladha

About the author: Originally form Dar es Salaam and Iringa, Tanzania, Karim Ladha settled in Toronto, Canada, where he embarked on a long career in IT with the Bank of Montreal, and ran a used clothing export business for several years. Now retired, he lives in Toronto with his wife Shahiroz. They have two beautiful children, Shereen and Raheem.

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.

Taliban Takeover: Ismailis in Afghanistan Asked to Stay Home and not Panic

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas
Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

Introduced and Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

[Note: This post will be updated on a regular basis with news, feature articles and analysis as they pertain to the developments in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country – Ed.]

A former Ismaili refugee from Afghanistan, Malik Malikzada, who runs Jamila’s Kitchen and Grill in Coquitlam, one of 21 municipalities in Greater Vancouver, Canada, says he is fearful for some members of his family as his homeland is seized by the Taliban. But, he says, having spoken to a cousin in Afghanistan, the situation in Kabul is calm. Read complete report in Tricity News HERE or click on link/image shown at bottom of the post.

ANALYSIS
(with assessments of minority groups including the Ismailis)

(1) Marta Pascual Juanoala: The Taliban conquest of a thin strip of land could change Afghanistan, The Sydney Morning Herald (also, see map at top of post. The “thin strip” refers to the Wakhan Corridor, north-east on the map).

(2) Sam Dunning: China Is Moving on Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, Foreignpolicy.com (also, see map at top of post)

Readers may be able to access the articles listed above on a limited basis, otherwise registration and/or subscription is required. Dunning’s piece (2) contains some misinformation, when he mentions that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, resides in Monaco.

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SELECTED ARTICLES ON LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN AFGHANISTAN

August 28, 2021: Evacuee: World has ‘abandoned’ Afghanistan’s new generation (apnews.com)

August 27, 2021: Afghanistan’s top high school graduate fears for her future (apnews.com)

August 27, 2021: With hope of escape dashed, two Afghan women look to future under Taliban (Reuters)

August 27, 2021: Couple hopeful for children’s future after escape from Kabul (apnews.com)

August 27, 2021: Taliban planning ‘inclusive caretaker gov’t’ in Afghanistan (Al Jazeera)

August 23, 2021: Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Faces Renewed Threats (Architectural Digest)

August 21, 2021: Afghan Taliban Commission Looking Into Pakistan’s Terror-Related Concerns (Voice of America).

August 21, 2021: Healthcare Needs Grow Amid Deepening Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan (Voice of America)

August 20, 2021: ‘No alternative to the Taliban’: Russia’s envoy to Afghanistan (Al Jazeera)

August 19, 2021: Taliban, Consolidating Power, Meet With Former Rivals (Voice of America)

August 19, 2021: UNESCO Appeals for Protection of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage (Voice of America)

August 18, 2021: As Taliban Take Over, US Governors Offer Afghans Refuge (Voice of America)

August 17, 2021: International Heritage and Culture Organisations Operating within Afghanistan Monitor Situation in Wake of Talibans’ Return to Power (The Art Newspaper)

August 17, 2021: Uganda will Host 2,000 Afghan Refugees at US Request (Voice of America)

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CHAOS IN AFGHANISTAM HITS CLOSE TO HOME FOR COQUITLAM RESTAURATEUR

0816-AfghanistandReactionFile 1w
Please click on image for article in Tricity News

Date posted: August 17, 2021.
Last updated: August 28, 2021.

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Must See Video: Bruno Freschi Provides Great Insights Into the Making of the First Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Canada, and Reflects on His Highness the Aga Khan

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

I first met met Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Centre Vancouver, in Washington D.C., when Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was awarded the Vincent Scully Prize in January 2005 at the National Building Museum. After meeting him at the door, I politely intruded into a conversation the Aga Khan Council Canada President, Firoz Rasul, was having with Fumihiko Maki, the Japanese architect of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa (December 2008), and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (September 2014), and introduced Bruno to the President. So for the first time two great architects from different ends of the world met each other. We are truly proud of what both have done for the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community.

Aga Khan at the National Building Museum Washington DC
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Charles Correa, Robert Ivy and Martin Filler in a panel discussion on “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond”, on January 25, 2008 at the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. Photo: © Nicky Lubis. Special to Simerg.
Bruno Freschi, OC
Bruno Freschi, OC
Aga Khan at National Building Museum seminar
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during a panel discussion at the seminar “Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond” held at the National Museum Building in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2005. Bruno Freschi in an interview with Simerg noted as follows about Mawlana Hazar Imam: “An excellent design critic and intellectually generous in the pursuit of design ideas”. Photo: © Special to Simerg.

Later that evening before the ceremonies were over — and also later in my interview with him — Bruno told me that he met Mawlana Hazar Imam who thanked him for building the Jamatkhana in Vancouver which he said was one of his most favoured buildings. At the time, Bruno was based in the US capital.

Aga Khan message to Bruno Freschi
His Highness the Aga Khan’s appreciative note to Mr. Bruno Freschi for his “remarkable achievement”. Message written in the architect’s personal volume of the Ismaili Centre Souvenir publication. Image: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

A few years later when Bruno was back in Vancouver but still travelling, I met him for the second time shortly after launching Simerg in the spring of 2009. My daughter had travelled with me to visit my parents in Vancouver. Bruno happened to be in town and was available one evening for dinner at the famous VJ’s restaurant.

VJs Vancouver Bruno Freschi and the Merchants
(From left, anti-clockwise) Bruno Freschi, Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018), Nurin Merchant and Malik Merchant at the famous VJs in Vancouver, March 2009.

My dad joined us for a fantastic meal with Bruno, and what an evening it turned out to be. Among other matters, and in a setting of a great ambience, our conversation also centered around the magnificent Jamatkhana building that he had designed. That evening’s conversation along with subsequent text exchanges then became part of Simerg’s though provoking interview with Bruno Freschi, that includes several unique photos.

Jehangir Merchant, Ismaili teacher, writer and missionary at Ismaili Centre Vancouver
Jehangir Merchant pictured in front of the fountain in the beautiful courtyard of the Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, Vancouver, designed by Bruno Freschi. It was designated as the Darkhana Jamatkhana by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Both Jehangir and his wife, Maleksultan, attended the Darkhana Jamatkhana every single day, and found immense comfort and happiness within the Jamatkhana space and the building’s overall interior and exterior environment. This photo was taken a few months before Alwaez died in May 2018 at the age of 89. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mohib Ebrahim, Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre
A beautiful night view of the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Vancouver, with the fountain in the foreground and the Jamatkhana entrance forming the backdrop. The Jamatkhana was designed by Vancouver’s Bruno Freschi and opened in 1985 by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © Mohib Ebrahim. 2014. For a superb collection of photos of the Ismaili Centre by Mohib, please click HERE
Mrs. Merchant at Ismaili Centre Vancouver with neighbour Nazim Rawji
Mrs. Merchant (d. January 2021) pictured with Nazim Rawji, her former 1960/1970’s neighbour from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, outside the courtyard of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver during an event marking the 59th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The building was designed by architect Bruno Freschi, and opened in 1985 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Malik Merchant. July 2016.

I invite readers to read Simerg’s insightful interview with Bruno, and to also watch a fantastic program hosted by journalist Zahra Premji in Ismaili Canada’s series Summer Reflections. The video, below, must not be missed as it provides Bruno Freschi’s rare and unique glimpses into the making of this absolutely beautiful building which was opened in September 1985. His admiration and respect for Mawlana Hazar Imam is deeply touching.

I have always enjoyed being around Bruno because of his humble qualities and for sharing inspiring insights into the work of the Ismaili Imamat. I was delighted to meet him again at a much different VJ’s some years later just before the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He then contributed a thought provoking article The architecture of empathic pluralism: His Highness the Aga Khan, an inspired vision of architecture for Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family. Then, after my dad passed away, I met him once more when my mum was with me at a daytime event at the Ismaili Centre. She was very happy that she had finally met the person who designed the Jamatkhana that both she and my dad had visited every single day for years and years. The Jamatkhana had provided them with spiritual happiness and comfort as well as strength in their daily lives, like it has for thousands and thousands of Ismailis living in Vancouver as well as visitors from around the world.

We thank you Bruno for creating a beautiful space to which we all enter (go in) with anticipation and leave (go out) with an immense amount of happiness and hope. We return to it over and over again. Your insight into the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre will make us think more about the building you painstakingly designed for us, working together side by side with our beloved Imam to see its total and full completion.

The Ismaili Canada Conversation with Bruno Freschi

Note: To skip the pre-show of songs and music, please start the video at approximately the 13 minute mark to watch Zahra Premji’s excellent and extensive interview with Bruno Freschi, the architect of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Vancouver.

To skip songs and watch Ismaili Centre program and interview with Bruno Freschi, please begin at 13 minute mark.

Date posted: August 14, 2021.

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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.