When life for people in Afghanistan deteriorates, our support becomes even more valuable.
We have always tried to find positive projects and to highlight the improvements small donations can make to those in difficult circumstances in Afghanistan. Although the current security situation leads to gloom and despondency, we must not lose sight of the obvious fact that, when life for the people there deteriorates, our support becomes even more valuable. Now is not the time to back out.
You will know the situation is bad and getting worse. Covid-19 is hitting the people very hard, more than half of the population lives in dire poverty, 3 million children are severely malnourished. The intensity of the war increases and more than 150 civilians, mostly women and children, are currently being killed or severely wounded every week.
Infrastructure breaking down
The infrastructure is breaking down. Universities are closed, electricity supplies are collapsing, internet is fragile, food prices are increasing and road travel is extremely dangerous.
At the time of writing, the Taliban is gaining ground in many urban areas, but the situation is changing very fast. No one can predict what will happen but the situation now is similar to that after the Russians pulled out in 1989. Five years of civil war followed until the Taliban dominated, although they never controlled the entire country.
For us to abandon the Afghans now would betray their trust and our principles.
The existing government is unlikely to achieve outright victory because they haven’t the necessary public support. They haven’t been strong enough to prevent lawlessness and control corruption – estimates suggest more than half of the taxes collected go directly to the Taliban or to line the pockets of officials.
However, urban Afghans in particular have changed over the last 20 years and there is particularly strong opposition to Taliban rule in the cities. A recent countrywide survey by the Asia Foundation showed 85% of the population have no sympathy with the Taliban, and there is almost no support for ISIS. But Taliban justice, although arbitrary and unpleasant, is seen to bring law and order to the streets and eliminate corruption.
Attacks on women
The civil war throughout the country, the recent Taliban gains and the strengthening of ISIS are all especially frightening for women. The number of women killed or injured increased by 37% in the first quarter of 2021.
Women who symbolise independence, as well as those who defend them, become a target for the terrorists. In just four months, 11 journalists and activists were murdered. Two female judges were killed in January. Zarifa Ghafari, the only woman mayor, has survived three attacks.
“The Pink Shuttle must not stop. It is a symbol of freedom and hope.”
The Taliban now assure us that they’ve changed, are less extreme and will allow women to receive an education and pursue careers.
But recently a young woman was given 40 lashes in public for the ‘crime’ of talking to a boy on her phone. The boy languishes in jail. Another woman was beaten until she was unconscious after being caught by armed Taliban in a market. She was without a face mesh across her burqa. Are these incidents evidence of lack of control of rogue fighters? Have the Taliban changed?
“Don’t leave us alone”
We are encouraged by the response of the Afghan women working for the Pink Shuttle project that we support. Terrorists have recently blown up vans in Kabul, and vanloads of women sadly provide an ideal target for them.
The Italian charity running the project, Nove Onlus, proposed suspending the service but continuing to pay the salaries.
Their women drivers’ answer:
“No thanks. We know the risks and we are afraid, but the Pink Shuttle must not stop. It is a symbol of freedom and hope; if we give up, the terrorists will have already won. Everyone is in danger in Afghanistan, life must go on. Don’t leave us alone.”
So we won’t. For us to abandon the Afghans now would betray their trust and our principles. We will continue to support the scholarships and existing projects. But the needs that arise during such a rapidly changing situation mean that we have to become even more flexible and adaptable.
Thanks to all of you for your contributions over the past six months. Thanks to your generous donations, maintained and increased throughout the Covid epidemic, we now support around 210 students at colleges and universities.
A big ’Thank you’ from us at LNF here in UK and an even bigger ‘Thank you’ from the women in Afghanistan whose lives have been transformed by your support.