'Religious scholars can raise their voice for Afghan women', says official

International community can play a major role in dispelling false narrative about girls education, says country's former deputy minister


Rasha Abu Baker

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Published: Thu 15 Dec 2022, 11:28 PM

Last updated: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 3:42 PM

Since the fall of the Afghan government in August 2021, life has fundamentally changed for the people of the country. With 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees in the world, they make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations, according to the UNHCR.

Here in the UAE, over 17,000 evacuees have been hosted in Emirates Humanitarian City since September 2021, and many are still waiting to be processed by the US Embassy and its counterparts for resettlement in countries including the US, Canada, Switzerland and France. In neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, 2.2 million Afghan refugees are registered and another 3.5 million remain internally displaced, says the UNHCR.

Ajmal Shams, Vice-President of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party, former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, and ex-advisor to former President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, said the situation in Afghanistan is not showing much signs of improvement, with the majority of citizens desperate to flee in search for a better life.

“The situation in Afghanistan is highly fluid contrary to the claims by the Taliban administration that stability has returned to the country. Given the current uncertainty, it is very unlikely that an inclusive government might be established in the country in the near future,” Shams told Khaleej Times in an email interview.

“Since the fall of the government in August 2021, people were hoping that a political settlement will end the conflict while preserving the state and institutions. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and everything turned upside down. It was truly a shock for most Afghans.

“Since then, life has been hard for absolute majority of Afghans. Virtually everyone is desperate to leave the country,” he added.

Shams said as the country faces an all-out economic and financial crisis, it is a question of survival for Afghans now and how the international community can do further to help the Afghan people.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs and economic opportunities. The banking sector has collapsed. Afghanistan was largely dependent on foreign aid struggling to build its own economy. With the fall of government, the economy has been in free fall. Thousands of local businesses have closed down.”

He added, “The international community has a moral obligation to help the people of Afghanistan. Those who feel threatened in the country because of their political beliefs must be given asylum. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has overshadowed the plight of Afghan people as most of the attention is focused there.”

The situation for women has drastically changed in Afghanistan, Shams said, especially since the doors of schools have closed for girls above Grade 6 after the Taliban take-over. “Afghanistan is probably the only country in the world with such restriction on education. Banning education on girls is contrary to the fundamental teachings of Islam which says education is compulsory for both men and women.”

The former Deputy Minister went on to say that the international community, especially Muslim and Arab nations, can play a bigger role in dispelling the false narrative about girls education propagated by the Taliban.

“Other Muslim countries can act as role model to change this situation,” Shams noted. “The Taliban mainly use religion and sharia as excuse for the banning of girls (education). Thus, the question should arise as to why is it that every other Muslim country in the world allows women education? What is so unique about Afghanistan?”

“Religious scholars can raise their voice for women education and the right to work based on teachings of the Quran,” he stressed.

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