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What's next in Afghanistan? Answering Your Questions

UPDATED as of August 11, 2021

With the news of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in recent weeks, many of our friends and supporters have been contacting us to express their concern, and to ask questions about how recent events might affect CAI’s programs. While the situation is precarious and changing day-to-day, we are here to answer your questions and provide as much information as possible. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions and Central Asia Institute’s responses. If you have further questions or would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@centralasiainstitute.org or call Hannah Denys, CAI’s Communications Director, at 406.585.7841.

How have recent events affected Central Asia Institute’s programs in Afghanistan?

At present, Afghanistan is facing crises on two fronts: A resurgence of the deadly coronavirus and the rapid escalation of violence as the Taliban battle with government forces for control of the country.

Earlier this summer the Afghan government ordered schools to close again in an effort to fight the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, As a result, CAI was forced to put its educational support programs on a temporary hold. Recently, the government switched course, announcing that schools would reopen despite that most Afghans have not been vaccinated or even had access to the vaccine. In response, CAI launched a program to help protect vulnerable communities and is providing PPE, raising awareness about how to avoid transmission of the disease, and dispelling misinformation about the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have continued an aggressive campaign to gain control not only of rural areas but provincial capitals as well. Tragically, civilians – including women and children – have been caught in the crossfire and more than 400,000 people have been displaced, 50% of whom are children.   

How the escalating violence and attacks on civilians will affect CAI, its partners, and the communities we have long served is not yet clear. To date, several districts where CAI supports educational programs have fallen under Taliban control. Yet the Taliban’s policy on girls’ education can vary depending on local commanders. As of writing, the Talibs in the areas where CAI has programs have not stated that girls cannot be educated.

Nonetheless, it is well known that the Taliban, at the very least, want to impose restrictions on how girls are educated, on what subjects, and to what age. For example, in June, a Taliban spokesman indicated in an interview that the Taliban want “separation between girls and boys, women and men, in universities, schools or madrassas,” and in many parts of the country that are already under Taliban control, it is reported that girls are being prohibited from going to school beyond elementary school.  

CAI will continue to work with communities to confront these challenges to female education as they arise. In fact, many of CAI’s existing programs are designed to work around existing barriers to girls’ education, for example, through establishing community-based (or home-based) schools for girls and by training women to be teachers, especially in the remote, rural areas where we work.

What will happen if the Taliban takes control of the entire country?

It is unclear what types of rules or edicts the Taliban will impose – generally or in any one district in which we work. But it is likely that women’s rights and freedoms will suffer and that girls’ access to education – especially beyond primary school – will become even more challenging.

Yet in our experience, the people of Afghanistan, especially its women, are determined not to give up without a fight the hard-fought gains over the last two decades, especially in terms of education. Today, even in rural areas, most Afghans value education. A 2019 study found that 87 percent of Afghans strongly support female education. They recognize that education is the key to a better, more prosperous future for their families, communities, and country.

For our part, CAI will do what it has always done in Afghanistan, which is to work closely with our partners and communities to adapt to the changing needs on the ground. Whether it is a drought, COVID-19, conflict and insecurity, or restrictions on girls’ access to education, we will work to provide programs that meet the needs of the communities we have long served and unlock the transformative power of education to help solve the country’s many problems. We may need to stop and start up again, but we are committed to standing by the Afghan people as long as we’re able to do so.

How can people help?

While the U.S. military may be leaving Afghanistan, it is more important than ever for the people of Afghanistan to know that the American people stand with them. What’s happening in Afghanistan might fade from the news cycle, but you can stay informed and help inform others – share news updates with your family members and friends, or post about it on social media.  If you need more information, please reach out to us here at CAI.

Second, you can reach out to your representative in Congress and express your concern about the people of Afghanistan, and your support for Afghan women and girls. Ask them what they are doing to support Afghan women and girls and to protect and promote access to education in Afghanistan.

Third, you can support organizations like Central Asia Institute that provide educational and other development and humanitarian programs in Afghanistan – and ask your friends and family to support them as well. For more information on how to give, please visit our donation webpage or contact us at info@centralasiainstitute.org or 406.585.7841.

Thank you all again for your commitment to education, and for keeping hope alive. Please keep your eyes open for additional information from us including updates from the field and how you can help. 

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