FEATURE: Afghanistan’s Perilous New Year

By Muhammad Shah

As our world seamlessly transitioned from 2021 to 2022, scenes in Afghanistan were a lot less celebratory on this New Year’s Eve. With 55% of its 40 million population struggling to feed themselves, people have resorted to the streets for their bread and butter. Certainly, this grim picture is hard to imagine, let alone witness, but for my Afghan friend, Suleman, it’s become a part of his daily commute to university. He chose to explain the pitiful conditions by saying “I see these small Afghan children displaced and begging when our car drives by. Some have not eaten in 2-3 days and are malnourished…” These heart-wrenching words illustrate just how appalling their day-to-day living has become under the Taliban rule. 

Following the Taliban’s resurgence last year, the economic constraints of feeding Afghanistan’s population became evident fairly quickly. International aid was barricaded from all fronts and the mass exodus of people from Kabul prompted a crippled economy. Because the country has historically relied on humanitarian aid to fund governmental institutions, universities and hospitals, the Taliban claim there is no money in the treasury. Unfortunately, this means Afghans are grappling to sustain themselves without food, often squatting in the dilapidated camps set up in Kabul for refuge. As expected, the healthcare sector is in complete shambles as well, with supplies running low and doctors unable to carry the patient load. Consequently, new-borns are in dire need of essential medical supplies to counteract the malnourishment brought forward by rough sleeping.  

In fact, one can easily ascertain the gravity of the situation by understanding Suleman’s reference to parents selling their children out of sheer desperation. Several articles from major news outlets have confirmed at least one such instance where a father sold his 10-year-old daughter for a meagre $1,300 to support his family of five children. Since the idea of childhood marriage isn’t considered unusual in the Afghan society, there is no telling how many of these unscrupulous transactions are being kept under wraps.  

However, perhaps the most pressing issue facing young Afghans like Suleman is what the future holds for them in their country. As he put it, the world seems to have forgotten about them and essentially moved on meanwhile he finds himself at the mercy of a terrorist organization.  Will he be able to secure a legitimate job or will his skillset be put to illicit use in terrorist activities?  

“They will never pay any attention to us. People got what they needed from our country and now we are left on our own. But we will survive and get through this. Our history shows us that.”

Suleman

On a more personal note, I believe the idea of Taliban reverting back to their old ways is not a matter of “if” but “when”. Indeed, they have already shown their true colours by imposing a travel ban on females travelling more than 72 kilometres away unless they have a male chaperone present. Regrettably, this means that young minds could fall prey to their recruitment drives and the radical teachings preached to them at religious seminaries (locally known as madrassas). In the early 90’s, these same seminaries in Northern Pakistani regions had proved to be a gateway for them to train the Taliban fighters from the Soviet era. Now, there are no checks in place to ensure the kind of education being offered to adolescents and young teens in the country.  Because western ideologies are seen as polluting young minds, Taliban’s motives are clear and establishing their so-called Islamic Emirate follows that pattern. Allegiances will likely be sought from all adults, especially those on the streets who are more gullible due to their financial state.  

Readers of the Gown will recall the harrowing events which took place last year in Kabul

As for the economic crisis, releasing funds to Afghanistan is likely to be the long-term solution but I understand why the United States or the United Nations doesn’t want to be in this precarious situation. There is absolutely no guarantee that corruption wouldn’t infiltrate the highest ranks in this new Afghan government and money could be funneled into their own pockets or expended towards military operations. Therefore, returning the money on certain contingencies could go a long way in ensuring that Afghans aren’t sentenced to a life in destitution.  

As for Suleman, his positive attitude is yet another example of Afghan resilience in the face of undying adversity and I hope it will get him through these tumultuous times.  

Editorial Note:

The retreat of the American Republic’s executive branch last year left many feeling angry, betrayed, and disillusioned. We ourselves published an article commenting on the decline in confidence felt by many in the West at their own civilisation. We’re perhaps the smallest newspaper on these islands, and so there’s little we could ever dream of doing to help those affected by the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. If you’d like to donate to recognise charities, links can be found below: we would urge all of our readers in joining the Editorial Team in donating what you can.

IRC (Rescue UK): https://www.rescue-uk.org/country/afghanistan

Afghanaid: https://www.afghanaid.org.uk/

UNHCR: https://www.unhcr.org/uk/afghanistan.html

ICRC: https://www.icrc.org/en/afghanistan-crisis

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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