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

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

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN

Monday, December 5, 2021

Click on images for enlargements

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

Dear Jamats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: December 5, 2021.

________________

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

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

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

LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN

Saturday, December 4, 2021

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

Dear Jamats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

Date posted: December 4, 2021.

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

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

________________

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

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

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

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simerg Photos

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

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

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

_____________________

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

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

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

Please click on map for enlargement

Afghanistan Map, Spin Boldak
Map of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. The area, Spin Boldak, in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, and the border town of Chaman in Pakistan where many Afghans seek refuge, are circled in red. Please click on map for enlargement. Credit: Map adapted and annotated by Simerg from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.

Dear Jamats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I therefore sincerely appeal to the Ismaili Leaders International Forum (LIF), the AKDN agencies and Ismaili Council leadership to be forward thinking, closely monitor the situation and adopt an effective strategy for addressing all the issues that will continue to emerge in the foreseeable future.

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

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

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

Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.
(Name withheld)

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

________________

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

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.

_____________________

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

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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