With the Taliban (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) coming to power in Afghanistan, the local Tatars are in a dire situation: they lack even basic food or medicines. Added to this are ongoing fighting, blocked bank accounts and chaos in the governance of the country. In their attempt to survive, the Afghan Tatars have turned to their historic homeland for help. How Tatarstan can help its compatriots became known within the framework of a press conference held in Kazan, which was attended online by the Tatars from Afghanistan.
Prospects for cooperation between Tatarstan and Afghanistan
As Rustam Khabibullin, Director General of the Muslim Charity Foundation, noted during the press conference, the Foundation is currently working on establishing close cooperation between the Republic of Tatarstan and Afghanistan. With the support of the World Tatar Congress, since last year business ties have been established between representatives of business, healthcare, culture, youth, education and academic communities through a series of teleconferences. An agreement has also been signed on cooperation between the Academies of Sciences of Tatarstan and Afghanistan, including through UNESCO.
‘Within the framework of this Agreement we have agreed to exhibit Bactrian gold in Kazan, which is on a par with the largest archaeological finds of global significance. Earlier exhibitions of Bactrian gold were organized in other countries, but never in Russia’, Kabibullin stressed.
Cinematographic work has also been organized. The result was the victory of a Tatarstan film, ‘Ostazbike’, at the country’s national festival in the category ‘Best Muslim Film’.
‘The current situation can be called genocide of the Afghan people’
According to Andrei Serenko, head of the Centre for Afghan Policy Studies, the topic of Afghanistan defines the information agenda not only in Russia, but also all over the world. ‘We are witnessing the attempts to influence the situation in Afghanistan in a positive sense. Unfortunately, now a large part of the Afghan population is actually not just living below the poverty line, but is also threatened by the physical consequences. Food, common security, healthcare problem, lack of medicines even of the first aid – it is a catastrophic situation, including for neighboring countries that are part of Central Asia’, the expert is convinced.
According to Serenko, Russia should work harder in a humanitarian direction. ‘We have got used to the fact that when it comes to Afghanistan, all issues are political. As a result, the Afghans are suffering, since they have become hostages of the situation. What is happening now can be called genocide of the Afghan people. Attention of different social groups, political forces, national states should be directed to the solution of the humanitarian problem in its widest dimension. It is necessary to focus on the establishment of contacts with local communities, local authorities, which plays a positive role. This kind of relationship is the future’, Serenko is convinced. According to him, the Afghans have their own unique experience of self-organization that is necessary to be used. It is important to maintain friendly relations and constantly develop contacts. ‘The Tatar channel of friendship and support should be formed exactly from Kazan’, the expert concluded.
A representative office of the Republic of Tatarstan should be opened in Afghanistan
In constant contact with Afghanistan’s Tatar leaders, the Foundation provided assistance to families in need, Rustam Khabibullin explained. ‘Thanks to our compatriots in Afghanistan, we have managed to discover the burial of the remains of a missing Soviet soldier, a native from Tatarstan, Khambal Hambarov’, the speaker added.
In March 2021, the Afghan government added the Tatar nationality to civil passports and birth certificates, which is a great achievement for the people. But this does not change the fact that today the Tatars are in the extremely difficult situation: families are starving; two children have already died of hunger. And this is only the information that is known. ‘There have been recorded cases of children being sold in order to save the others from starvation. Not everyone has a chance to survive, especially in rural areas. The ongoing hostilities have depleted supplies; the USA has not left any money (blocking the banking system). Tatarstan is the only hope. We need to send humanitarian aid there as soon as possible’, Khabibullin addressed journalists.
In order to work more effectively, Rustam Khabibullin decided to approach President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov with a proposal to organize a representative office of the Republic of Tatarstan in Afghanistan. The office could be based on the territory of the charitable foundation.
‘There are not even the basic necessities’
The nature of the Tatar population in Afghanistan is such that they live next to transport routes that run from the north of the country to Asian countries. In this regard, militants use these roads for troop movements. They occasionally attack Tatar settlements that have to defend themselves’, Rustam Khabibullin said during the press conference.
The Director General of the Foundation also explained that there was a shortage of storage facilities in Afghanistan. Many Tatars are engaged in agriculture. But now they cannot sell their crops anywhere. There is no logistics, their production spoils and is used as a fertilizer. The crops used to be transported to neighboring countries, where they were stored and brought back to Afghanistan to sell.
Mohammad Yusuf Shinwari, representative of the Muslim Charity Foundation in Afghanistan, also confirmed the critical situation of the Tatars in Afghanistan. ‘Now there is chaos in Afghanistan everywhere. The Tatars live in 16 provinces, totaling more than 1,5 million people who are in a very difficult situation. On the one hand, we have faced with the transition of the government from one system of governance to another one. Secondly, winter is coming, the fact of which will cause even more difficulties. After the collapse of the former President’s government, the situation has become even worse. The Tatars used to be part of the Tajik tribes to a certain extent, which made it possible to address pressing issues. However, due to the fact that now the Tatars can show their nationality in their birth certificates and passports, the nation has become a separate group. And this has caused certain difficulties’, Mohammad Yusuf explained.
Every nationality helps their own peoples, the interlocutor from Afghanistan lamented. The Afghan Tatars have great hopes for Tatarstan that the republic will be able to provide sufficient assistance to their compatriots who are in need. ‘Everybody is left without work. They stay at home. There is nothing in hospitals. Not even the basic necessities’, Shinwari explained.
What help can be provided to the Tatars in Afghanistan?
How can residents of Tatarstan help their compatriots? As Rustam Khabibullin noted, today the Afghan Tatars do not even have any salt. ‘What am I suggesting? The first assistance that we can and must provide is to at least provide flour, sugar and sunflower oil, so that people would be able to cook at least flatbread. From our side we are also providing support, but our resources are not as vast. We must do everything in order to save lives of our compatriots in Afghanistan’, the Director General of the Foundation added.
According to Khabibullin, the foundation will be responsible for logistics inside the country, since they have security arrangements with the new government. It is necessary to transport the cargo to the border with Afghanistan from Tatarstan.
‘We are a non-governmental organization and work in the sphere of national diplomacy. Whatever the authorities in Afghanistan, we should cooperate with them. We have contacted the Taliban (a terrorist organization that is banned in the Russian Federation) as soon as they entered Kabul. Their policy or ideology has nothing to do with us. We want to support ordinary people. All means of transport are available to deliver humanitarian aid: railway, air, roads. We are giving assistance on a targeted basis, which guarantees that all of the food reaches the families in need. In addition to it, we are ready to report on our work’, the head of the foundation said.
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