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.

Afghanistan: A Nation Rife With Drug Addiction – Sad and Shameful Deaths in a Nation Where Nothing is More Important than Family, Honour and Tradition

“At Kabul’s Pul-e-Sokhta bridge, the health workers face the grim, and heavy chore of removing the bodies, hauling them up to the street and away for burial. If no family can be located, they will be laid in an unmarked grave, with no one to mourn their loss. It is the mark of shame to be buried alone in Afghanistan.”

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergSimergphotos and Barakah

The following documentary and the accompanying transcript are reproduced from Voice of America (VOA). The documentary was aired on October 21, 2021 (and also on November 25, 2021). In a subsequent report by Roshan Noorzai dated December 10, 2021, VOA notes that farmers in Afghanistan say that they will continue to grow poppy amid uncertainty over the Taliban’s poppy eradication policy. “We have no choice but to cultivate opium poppy,” said Noor, 52, a farmer living in a remote village in the western Farah province. A father of 10 children, Noor said his family will go hungry without the opium poppy crop. “I am not sure how I will be able to provide food to my children until the harvest. We do not have food for a month, even. The prices have skyrocketed, and people cannot afford buying food”

The editor wishes to warn viewers that some scenes in the film may be disturbing, and viewer discretion is advised.

WARNING: The following film contains scenes and statements that some readers may find disturbing

A Voice of America Documentary

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Transcript

Excerpts from transcript of the documentary “The Inside Story: Afghanistan Addiction Crisis” shown on VOA on October 21, 2021.

Hi. I’m Katherine Gypson, VOA’s Congressional Correspondent.

While members of Congress and others debate the tactics of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the strategies of 20 years of war, there is one issue that has constantly plagued that country: Drugs. Narcotics. Specifically, opium.

According to the U.N., Afghanistan produces 80 percent of the world’s opium.

While the rest of the world tries to deal with the trafficking of the drug, millions of people are addicted inside Afghanistan.

Before the U.S. withdrawal, VOA’s Afghan Service traveled through the country to document the extent of Afghanistan’s Addiction Crisis.

Our grim trip begins in the capital, Kabul.

Voice of narrator (Annie Ball):

In Afghanistan, this is where, and how, it sometimes ends. A drug addict’s life.

Health workers came to round-up the addicts and take them to addiction treatment centers. But today they encounter the lifeless bodies of three addicts.

Here, at Kabul’s “Pul-e-Sokhta” bridge, the health workers face the grim, and heavy chore of removing the bodies, hauling them up to the street and away for burial. If no family can be located, they will be laid in an unmarked grave, with no one to mourn their loss. It is the mark of shame to be buried alone in Afghanistan.

For the workers and government officials, it reminds them they cannot help everyone.

Dr. Aref Wafa was working with addicts.

Dr. Aref Wafa, Department of Drug Demand Reduction:

Especially when we come here in the winter, our goal is to save their lives. They may increase the dose due to cold or chills. When they overdose, they do not feel it, therefore, this causes their death.

Narrator:

Doctors say, these addicts are consuming heroin, morphine, opium and increasingly, crystal meth. The cause of death is usually a drug overdose. They are taken to a Kabul cemetery for burial. How many bodies are buried there? No one knows. Officials don’t track the numbers.

Gholam Yahya’s brother lost his life to addiction under the bridge. Yahya, an addict like his brother, still lives under this bridge. Now, he describes the sadness — and shame — and how addicts’ deaths are treated by religious leaders.

Gholam Yahya, Drug Addict:

They said those who use drugs, commit suicide. Since they commit suicide, their funeral prayers are forbidden. They cannot be washed. His mother did not bring her child to this world to end up under Pull-e-Sokhta bridge. He did not wish this for himself., but I could not bury him in any cemetery.

Narrator:

In Kabul’s ‘Pul-e-Sokhta area, this is not just the story of Gholam Yahya’s life.

Throughout Afghanistan, it is known as a drug addiction center. The bridge in western Kabul has become a major hub for drug users for the past two decades. An iconic symbol of drug abuse in a nation rife with addiction.

The addicts don’t come just from Kabul, but many from the provinces, too. Hundreds of them share this grimy space, spending their days and nights getting high amidst the waste and debris. Most of them have been evicted by their families and have no shelter.

They live in squalor, surrounded by filth, black walls, and dirty water.

Over the years there have been several unsuccessful attempts to close the area. But it remains a popular gathering place for addicts.

Nazo is one of many looking for loved ones. Her husband and brother are addicted to drugs. Nazo’s husband uses opium and is remarried. He left her with the responsibility of taking care of their six boys. In Afghanistan, single mothers with no men in the house face a particularly difficult life, especially when the single mother is the only breadwinner. This is why Nazo hopes to find her brother, who is a heroin addict.

“I weave carpets to earn money. I use opium, that’s not cheap. I was on my way to collect waste when a car stopped, and the driver told me to get in the car. And he told me I will take you home and help you. Then I got in the car. The driver showed me the suicide jacket and asked me, ‘Do you want to do this? I will give you money.’ I said ‘No, I will not do it.’ And I jumped out of the car.”

Nazo, Sister of a Drug Addict:

It has been five months since I went to Kart-e-now, Arzan Qemat, Jada, and Cinema-e-Pamir to Shama-li so that anyone could tell me his whereabouts. I don’t know the area. I went to ask. I got home about ten o’clock at night. I am a woman. I cannot bear this grief, if God forbid. someone touches me or someone talks dirty behind my back.

Narrator:

In addition to her six children, Nazo also has been taking care of her mother and her brother’s wife. She washes dishes and cleans people’s laundry, making about $2.60 a day.

Nazo, Sister of a Drug Addict:

I suffered for him so much. The other day, I told my mother. ‘Mother!’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I said ‘it’s a pain, we can get over it. I will find a poison tablet and we will end everything together.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Stories like Nazo’s are becoming more commonplace because of the drug trade’s grip on Afghanistan’s economy.

2017 was the peak, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Nearly 10-thousand tons of opium brought in one-point-four billion dollars — seven percent of Afghanistan’s GDP.

And now the opium produced from the poppy plant has a rival that also grows wild in Afghanistan.

Narrator:

As a country, Afghanistan deals with insecurity, endless wars, corruption, poverty, a weak economy, high unemployment, and other challenges. But it also faces the problem of home-grown addiction and drug use. Some describe drug addiction in this country as a hidden tsunami; a large wave ready to crush what is in its wake.

Despite billions of dollars in international aid, government projects and efforts, Afghanistan remains the world’s top cultivator of poppy — the plant used to make opium and heroin.

The country is the world’s largest narcotics producer. A joint survey by the Afghan government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, shows they are losing the war to eradicate the crop.

It says in 2020, poppy cultivation was up 37% in Afghanistan.

The report found that last year poppy was cultivated on nearly a quarter of a million hectares of land in 22 of the 34 provinces.

Most of the opium is smuggled abroad, but what remains is a problem at home.

“Most people here use drugs together, in groups, and out in the open. The lives of the villagers revolve around smoking drugs. When they have it, they use it.”

Mark Colhoun, Former UNODC Representative in Afghanistan:

We are seeing high level of opioid use in the country. We are seeing high level of cannabis use in the country and an emerging threat that we have been noticing for the last number of years is definitely methamphetamine and other amphetamine type stimulants in the country. So, these are all increasing the threats to the population exponentially, so we have drug production and then rising drug use in the country which is a severe threat to the people of the country.

Narrator:

Drug production and addiction go hand-in-hand, and both are on the rise.

User statistics are hard to come by. The most recent numbers are from a 2015 survey. It was conducted by INL, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the Afghan government. It found that 2.5 to 3.5 million Afghans are directly or indirectly addicted to drugs. At that time, one in three families tested positive for drugs. And the rural areas were three times worse than in the cities.

Dr. Ahmad Jawad Osmani, Former Afghanistan Minister of Public Health:

Unfortunately, drug addiction is not diminishing. It is increasing. And that’s why, we think that the number that was estimated in the past has increased even more.

Narrator:

Meanwhile, a recent report shows crystal methamphetamine — also called crystal or meth — is a growing problem in Afghanistan. Last November, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reported that the country is becoming a significant global producer of meth.

One reason is drug traffickers discovered that the ephedra plant, which commonly grows wild in parts of Afghanistan, can be used to make meth. The report focused on the production of meth in Bakwa district. It called the preliminary findings “worrying,” adding there is potential for meth to rival the country’s production of opiates.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

Concern over the rapid increase in meth production is its relative low cost to make.

And for many of Afghanistan’s addicts, low cost is what they are looking for.

And it is not limited to the cities.

VOA’s Afghan Service went about 180 kilometers west of Kabul — to Bamyan province — for a ground-level view of addiction’s reach into rural villages.

Narrator:

Bamyan is known for its beautiful landscapes. It is where, nearly 20 years ago (March 2001) the Taliban destroyed two ancient statues of Buddha, which had been the largest in the world.

Here, people in the cities and villages suffer from drug addiction.

Local officials say there are about 50,000 addicts, and people affected by addiction.

Head west, into more rural areas, and you find drugs even more prevalent than in central Bamyan province.

The Waras district is where most of the villagers use drugs.

The long drive to get there winds through scenic landscapes and rutted roads.

Waras district is surrounded by green hills and valleys.

People in this remote area live in poverty. They lack the benefits of modern society, like good schools, clinics or hospitals, and technology.

The sun shines brightly this morning in Bazobala village. Here, everyone, young and old, including the men, women and children are drug addicts.

Eighty families live in Bazobala.

Most people here use drugs together, in groups, and out in the open. The lives of the villagers revolve around smoking drugs. When they have it, they use it.

When asked why, they mention many reasons. Like this 18-year-old man:

Drug Addict, Bazobala Shuqol village:

The reason I became addicted to drugs was unemployment and poverty. I went to Iran, far away from home. I was unemployed and the situation was bad, so I got addicted to drugs. So, when I return here, I thought that the situation will be better. The situation is bad here as well.

Ali Yawar, Bazobala Shuqol village:

I have been using drugs for almost fifteen years. First, I used heroin, now I’m using in crystal.

Narrator:

It affects the children too. Parents not only use themselves, but also give drugs to their children. In addition to heroin, opium and crystal meth, the addicts of Bazobala are also familiar with other drug options, like tramadol tablets. It is a cheap alternative to heroin and opium.

Drug Addict, Bazobala Shugol village:

Those whose consumption is high, like myself, my spending is also high. I use may be one or one and half packet. A packet is 25 (32 cents) to 50 Afghanis. You can’t even purchase this tramadol 500 for 100 Afghanis.

“My older son is not here. It has been three years since he is missing. I don’t know if he is alive or dead. There are four of us, and all four of us are addicts. Yes, we sold everything. We sold bedsheets and everything that we had. And with the money, we bought drugs and used it.”

Narrator:

In Pezhandur village, women are also drug addicts.

In many families in the area, they use drugs with their husbands and children

This is Fatima. She has been addicted to drugs for 30 years. Fatima, her husband and her sons use drugs together.

Fatima, Pashandur Village:

I have asthma. I’m sick as well. I’m 65 years old. I go to work in the desert and mountains until late. I’m weak and my husband is also sick.

Narrator:

Villagers here work in farming and raising animals. Young people go to the mountains to collect grass for the animals, and the children are shepherds.

The idyllic life of these villages is disrupted by narcotics, brought in from neighboring provinces. Residents say they have repeatedly informed security agencies about the smugglers, but no action is taken.

The villagers want the government’s attention. They want help, and they want an addiction treatment center.

There is only one 20-bed clinic in Waras, which clearly lacks the ability to treat all the addicts in an area of tens of thousands of people. Local officials want more.

Qasim Ali, Chairman, People’s Council of the Peshandur & Bazobala Area:

Everyone is addicted to drugs. These people are all unfortunate. The reason is unemployment and poverty. The government does not care about these people. I request from the government, the international community, and human rights to build a hospital in the Shiwqol area. The hospital should be 100 beds or so so these people can be treated.

KATHERINE GYPSON

Addiction treatment is undergoing a change now that the Taliban are running Afghanistan.

Police have been recently rounding up addicts in Kabul, giving them a choice to either sober up or face beatings.

They are stripped, bathed and shaved before going into a 45-day treatment program.

But as one Taliban officer put it: “It’s not important if some of them will die. Others will be cured. After they are cured, they can be free.”

The addicts rounded up in these raids have been men. But women fall victim to drug addiction, too. Before the Taliban took over, our VOA Afghan Service team went to Balk province in northern Afghanistan and discovered the disturbing way women addicts can be preyed upon.

Narrator:

The yellow morning sun shines on Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh’s capital.

This is one of the most populous provinces in northern Afghanistan, and Mazar-e-Sharif is the fourth largest city in the country.

The Blue Mosque, dating back to the 15th century, has made this city famous.

Mazar-e-Sharif hosts internally displaced people, IDPs, from nearby provinces. Security in the city brings people to come live here.

The city suffers from a large presence of drug addicts. Local officials say more than 300,000 people in Balkh province, including women and children, use drugs.

Easy access to drugs has led to more addicts. In the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, some women addicts are homeless, and some seek shelter in the cemetery at night.

This area is called Dasht-e-Shoor. These are the tents of internally displaced families.

This woman lives in the camp. She is an addict with a difficult story.

“Well, it’s narcotics, it gets you high. When we collect, we sniff, and it made us dizzy. Made us high, then we would sit down or go home with an excuse to relax and then go out. It had a bad effect. I had a headache when I went to school.”

Zohra, Homeless Drug Addict:

I was 13 years old, and my father was not there when my brother and mother married me. Now I am 31 years old, and I am lost. My mother-in-law was beating me. My father-in-law was beating me. I was smoking opium. I used to drink opium and that’s why they were beating me and telling me not to eat it. My husband left me and said “I don’t want a wife like you. You are free.” I have my two children with me. My husband hates me and doesn’t allow me to go home. I live in a tent. I have relatives, but they don’t care about me.

Narrator:

But Zohra says she is not addicted to drugs by her own free will. She says her family got her hooked. They used drugs in groups, she explains, to lessen the intense pain caused by their work as carpet weavers.

Zohra uses marijuana and opium. She has tried to quit several times but concerns about being homeless led her to relapse..

She walks the streets of Mazar-e-Sharif at night, begging and collecting usable garbage. This is NOT normal practice for women — because generally, it is not safe here for a woman to be out alone at night.

VOA went with her one night to see how she fares alone.

Zohra told us about how she pays for her habit. And in this harrowing story, she shared about someone giving her a ride, and the offer he made her:

Zohra/Homeless Drug Addict:

I weave carpets to earn money. I use opium, that’s not cheap. I was on my way to collect waste when a car stopped, and the driver told me to get in the car. And he told me I will take you home and help you. Then I got in the car. The driver showed me the suicide jacket and asked me, ‘Do you want to do this? I will give you money.’ I said ‘No, I will not do it.’ And I jumped out of the car.

KATHERINE GYPSON:

The United States spent more than eight-and-a-half billion dollars between 2002 and 2017 battling Afghanistan’s drug trade — That, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In May, the Special Inspector General said the Taliban gets an estimated 60 percent of its income from illegal drugs — About 400-million dollars between 2018 and 2019 according to the U.N.

And in Afghanistan’s easternmost province, VOA’s Afghan service found out that addiction knows no age — old or young.

Narrator:

Here in Badakhshan province, there are an estimated 25 to 30,000 addicts. Like elsewhere, addiction tends to run in families.

Jan Begum’s family is one of them. They live in the city of Faizabad. Her two sons and husband are addicted. They use crystal meth and heroin.

Jan Begum, Drug Addict:

We don’t have anything. They are both unemployed, this one is an addict, that one is an addict, too. My older son is not here. It has been three years since he is missing. I don’t know if he is alive or dead. There are four of us, and all four of us are addicts. Yes, we sold everything. We sold bedsheets and everything that we had. And with the money, we bought drugs and used it.

Narrator:

Jan Begum’s family used to live in a house in Faizabad. When the homeowner found out the family was using drugs, he kicked them out.

Now, they beg, take in laundry, and spend most of their income on drugs. Some of them have been treated several times for their addiction, but relapsed.

Samiullah is 18 years old. He uses drugs together with his mother, father, and brother.

Samiullah, Drug Addict:

I have been taking drugs from a young age. I take it with my parents. I go out to find then I take it. I wish the government would come and treat us and I would work as a server in a hotel.

Narrator:

Afghanistan remains the world’s largest opium producer.

Here in Nangahar province, children and teenagers work in the poppy fields collecting the gum with the elders in their family. They’re helping with opium production.

Mustafa is one of the teenagers working the poppy fields. Now,16 years old, Mustafa says he has been moving towards addiction for a long time, just because he works with poppies and opium.

Mustafa, 16-Year Old Poppy Field Worker:

Well, it’s narcotics, it gets you high. When we collect, we sniff, and it made us dizzy. Made us high, then we would sit down or go home with an excuse to relax and then go out. It had a bad effect. I had a headache when I went to school. I got permission to leave. It had a very bad effect because our heads were spinning, we were high. Drugs must cause this condition to our body.

Narrator:

This is some of Mustafa’s poppy harvest for the year. A few kilograms of opium have been harvested from the fields. He says that after collecting, he sold the opium and kept two more kilograms to sell later.

When the poppy season is over, he works in fields tending other crops like onions.

Mustafa says he has seen many people, including women, become addicted to drugs after working in poppy fields. He does not want to become an addict himself.

Mustafa, Poppy Field Worker:

If no narcotics were planted here, maybe no one would be addicted to drugs. Poppy made many people addicted to heroin. We want the government to stop the poppy cultivation. They should cultivate for us good, good fruit trees.

Narrator:

Less poppy production would mean less drug addiction, and fewer drug addicts ending up here, in this cemetery, in an unmarked grave. A sad and shameful death, in a nation where nothing is more important than family, honor and tradition.

Date posted: February 1, 2022.

The featured photo at top of this post is from the documentary.

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

Afghanistan: The Bacha Posh Tradition That Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys

Insights from Around the World

At not quite 8 years old, Sanam is a bacha posh: a girl living as a boy. One day a few months ago, the girl with rosy cheeks and an impish smile had her dark hair cut short, donned boys’ clothes and took on a boy’s name, Omid. The move opened up a boy’s world: playing soccer and cricket with boys, wrestling with the neighborhood butcher’s son, working to help the family make ends meet — READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE BY ASSOCIATED PRESS AT VOICE OF AMERICA

bacha posh Afghan Tradition Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys
A photo of Najieh dressed as a boy at a young age lies in a grass, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. Please click on image to read full article. Photo: Associated Press.

Date posted: January 16, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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TALIBAN CULTURAL COMMISSION STOPS DESTRUCTION OF HISTORIC FORTRESS

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

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

NO RESTRICTIONS ON VISITING GARDEN IN KABUL

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

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

Date posted: September 24, 2021.

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

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.

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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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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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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