A year after the fall of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Rotterdam Afghan Haris Fayez traveled to his home country to help residents with financial aid or food parcels. Since the fall of Kabul and the Taliban’s seizure of power, the country has been in a major economic crisis.
There is hardly any food to eat. One million children are at risk of malnutrition. The shops are empty. The streets too, because a lot of people have fled the country. Restaurants are open to take every cent they can earn, but they don’t have customers. “Except for a small elite, no one has money to spend. With what they have, people buy bread for their children. They have little left. The country is in a hopeless situation.”
Haris was born in Afghanistan, but grew up in Rotterdam. He wanted to see the suffering with his own eyes and is now raising money for humanitarian aid. He does it in Kabul.
How did you manage to get to Kabul?
“There are flights to Kabul again. I flew through Istanbul and on the way back via Dubai. The plane was completely full on the way there. These were people from the United Nations and UNICEF, for example, but also people who went to visit the family of England and Canada.”
Are you safe there?
“Yes, I feel very safe indeed. Security has increased dramatically since taking power with the departure of foreign forces. There are still attacks here and there that have been claimed by a branch of the Islamic State (ISIS), but at night ‘you can now walk safely in the street.’” This was not possible before. I’ve stayed here for a week now and so far nowhere. I was well vetted at the airport and the men at the checkpoints are rational and lenient.”
“Don’t get me wrong: the Taliban as a group have done terrible things and I will not excuse that. But the local population is very mixed. The mother is no longer a widow and the father no longer loses his children.”
You are a man. What does women’s life look like now after the Taliban’s return to power?
“I still see enough women roaming the streets in certain parts of Kabul. They are doing their own thing and trying to deal with the new situation. There are still women in universities. For example, at the airport an employee checked me in so they can definitely work, but Unfortunately not in all sectors. At least they can do more than I thought based on what the Western media is still writing.”
“But girls who go to school now will not be allowed to continue studying after the age of 15. This is very sad, because millions of girls will end up in a big hole.”
Amnesty International is sounding the alarm on the situation of women in Afghanistan
The rights of millions of women and girls in Afghanistan have been drastically curtailed since the Taliban took power last year. This is what human rights organization Amnesty International says in a recently published report. The Taliban pledged to protect women’s rights after taking power. But this promise soon turned out to be false. For example, women have to cover their faces again when they go outside, girls and women are not allowed to go to school and women are prohibited from traveling without a male escort. Amnesty speaks of a “very harsh policy” by the Taliban. “This policy constitutes a system of oppression that discriminates against women and girls in almost all aspects of their lives. Every daily activity such as going to school, working and leaving the home is controlled and severely curtailed,” the human rights organization said.
How is the situation now?
“The country is in ruins, but everyone is trying to make do with what they have. With Afghanistan no longer receiving financial aid and all assets being frozen by the US Federal Bank, a huge economic and humanitarian crisis has arisen. People can only handle $200 a week, and this is also uncertain in sometimes “.
What will you do in Afghanistan in the near future?
“When I arrived in Kabul, I started a fundraiser that brought in donations. People can still donate. With this money we help people here on behalf of the foundation. We are also inventorying what is currently needed.”
“I am traveling here with my family who knows what I can and cannot do. I hope other organizations will also take a step to come here and help people in Afghanistan. They really need it.”
Afghanistan is cut off from everything. How do you make sure that donations end in the right place?
“They use an underground banking system here, also called hawala business. I got the money through Istanbul in Kabul. Unfortunately, you currently have no other choice.”
I tried to travel to Kabul a year ago, but then things went wrong. You are stranded in Istanbul. what happened?
“I wanted to go to Afghanistan to get inspiration for my new restaurant opening in October. But while I was on my way to Afghanistan, the Taliban took power and I was stranded in Istanbul. Fortunately, I still have many Afghans refugees from there. In Istanbul and civilians in Kabul.”
Where can people go if they want to help you with your task?
“From our Stichting Omid foundation, we are currently the only Dutch relief organization helping in Kabul. Omid means ‘hope’ in Afghanistan, something people here haven’t lost yet. Via our website and link in Instagram bio (@stichtingomid.nl) People can donate, if they want to.”
I suppose something happened to you. How do you get out of the country?
“If something happens to me, I have no idea at the moment how I will get out of the country. On the other hand: I have a Dutch passport, so I can always go back by land. But for now there is nothing wrong and I suppose it will stay that way. I really don’t expect any madness, everything will be fine. God willing.”