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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Afghan students in Gujarat worry for families back home

Yousufi, who resigned as a JRS volunteer before coming to India in February this year to enroll for a Masters in Social Work course at MS University in Vadodara, says that the Taliban promise of “a moderate approach” would be short-lived.

Written by Aditi Raja , Kamal Saiyed | Vadodara |
August 17, 2021 3:31:59 am
afghan students in india talibanTaliban fighters poses for a photograph while raising their flag Taliban fighters raise their flag at the Ghazni provincial governor's house, in Ghazni, southeastern, Afghanistan (AP Photo)

About a week ago, Hikmatullah Yousufi, 25, learned from his friend back home in Afghanistan that the Taliban forces had vandalised the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), which conducts English language training for school teachers and less-privileged youth, and supports sustainable development, located in Herat Province.

Yousufi, who resigned as a JRS volunteer before coming to India in February this year to enroll for a Masters in Social Work course at MS University in Vadodara, says that the Taliban promise of “a moderate approach” would be short-lived.

“I have been an English teacher there. The Taliban cannot be trusted even if they make such promises. They do not want the youth to be educated. They have already prohibited co-education in schools and separated the classrooms for boys and girls. Soon, they will revert to their ways of denying education. My friend informed me that they smashed the laptop I left back in JRS when they raided the centre. My friends fled to Kabul for safety but they now tell me they feel they will be picked out and punished although the Taliban has announced it would ‘forgive’ those who worked for the West,” says Yousufi.

His biggest worry at the moment is the family he has back home — separated in two provinces.

“A few weeks ago, my wife and parents moved to Kabul Afghan students in Gujarat worry for families back home while the other half of my joint family, which includes my brother and his children, stayed in Herat. With the current situation, they are separated and cannot even travel. We are on the edge. My family has told me to forget about returning to the country and try and settle anywhere else but my wife is back home… every moment the fear of what would happen is eating into me. I had been trying to get my wife’s visa done for her to join me here, but now, we do not know what will happen,” says Yousufi.

The take over of Afghanistan by the Taliban forces has left many students in Gujarat on the tenterhooks, worried about their families more than the thought of being able to return home. At present, Gujarat has 99 Afghan students through Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and 25 other students attending offline classes from their home country or other locations, with 34 of them doing final year of their chosen courses. Parul University in Vadodara has 15 Afghan students, according to Chairman Dr Devanshu Patel while Veer Narmad South Gujarat University (VNSGU) has 10.

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Six Afghan students doing post graduate and PhD courses met Navsari MP and state BJP president CR Paatil Monday evening through VNSGU vice-chancellor K N Chavda, requesting visas for their parents and guardians to come to India.

The students are Arezo Rahimi (BBA), Qiammuddin Andaish (Ph.D Economics), Razia Muradi (M.A in Public Administration), Juma Rasuli (Ph.D in Economics), Fatima Karimi (M.A in Public Administration), Amulla Mazlomyav (MA. Public Administration) and Hamida Nasir (MSc in Mathematics).

Muhammad Mustafa Quraishi, 26, who first arrived in India in 2016 to enrol for Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) course at MS University, returned to complete his Masters in Business Administration from Parul University in November last year. For about a year from 2019, he worked in Kabul, where his family resides. For Quraishi, the news flash and images of the Taliban siege on his home country are worrisome.

“I have decided to not return and my mother has been sternly telling me over the phone to not even let the thought of coming back cross my mind. I was to visit Kabul in end of July to surprise my family but with the developments, I had put the plan on hold and now I have cancelled the visit,” says Quraishi, who is an intern in the admission counselling office of Parul University as part of the practical training of the course.

Quraishi, 26, however, cannot help worrying about his younger brother, 17, who is completing his higher secondary school and aspiring for a career in psychology. “I do not know what the Taliban will do to the country and what will be my brother’s future. Even if I do not go back, my family will suffer until we can find a safe passage out for them,” he says, recalling the childhood he spent in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Quraishi said, “As a child in the 2000s, we would hear stories of people saying that the Taliban fighters would accost them on the streets and ask if they had offered their namaz. Even if the person had already prayed, they would be sent back to the mosques to pray again. They were a terror. They have promised that they won’t take the country back to that dark age, but they cannot be trusted. There is some kind of inside negotiation going on in the political circles and hopefully, people of Afghanistan will not be harmed.”

Fatima Karimi (25), a native of Kabul, enrolled for Masters in Public Administration at VNSGU in February last year. Youngest among the nine children of a businessman family, Fatima, Bachelor of Arts from Kabul University, is worried for the girls and women back home. She last went home in May, spent a month with the family, and returned to Surat in June.

Fatima says, “They have destroyed everything. People are jobless now and will face hunger and poverty. They force girls to marry.
Yesterday evening, I spoke to my family members and was upset. The Taliban lay restrictions on women and girls and force them to wear burqa, and prevent them from getting educated or work in offices… The future of Afghanistan has been destroyed.”

Fatima said, “Twenty years ago, Taliban ruled when I was child… I have seen their terror… During these 20 years, many development works were done in our country and it was on the path of progress. Because of the Republic of Afghanistan, I got an education and went to college and now I am in Surat for post-graduation. The situation will worsen in the coming days… 70 per cent population of Afghanistan is below the poverty line. With Taliban rule, it will go up…”

Juma Rasuli (37), a resident of Bamiyan province in Afghanistan, was greatly relieved on having spoken to his wife and two daughters over the phone on Monday. A PhD student at VNSGU, Rasuli is an assistant professor in a college in Bamyan teaching economics.

“I have been in Surat since 2019 for PhD in economics. My wife Bigom Karimi is studying public administration in the university. I took my wife and both the children back to Afghanistan in May. I returned on August 2 and my wife’s ticket was booked for August 17, but as the situation is not good, she stayed back with my parents.”

He added, “When I heard of Taliban toppling the government, I was worried and tried to contact my family members but could not on Sunday. I left a message with relatives in Bamyan province to not allow anybody to come out of the house. This morning, I spoke to my family and felt relieved. I told my wife to not rush to Surat. I have a year more to go for my PhD and by then the situation may normalise. However, I may go to some other country and settle there.”

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