Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, on March 12 a German charter deportation flight landed in Kabul. It may have been the last such flight for now, given the virus’ spread and ensuing global aviation shutdown.
The collective deportation to Kabul on March 12 was preceded by a larger logistical effort. The 39 Afghan men affected had to be brought together from all over Germany, in this case at Halle-Leipzig airport in the country’s east.
They were brought from nine German states: Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
The Afghan refugee ministry had already made a written appeal to Germany and other European countries last week to suspend the deportations, Deputy Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Dr. Alema told DW from Kabul: “As more than 10,000 migrants return to Afghanistan every day due to the strong outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, the ministry is busy looking after these returnees and has no capacity to look after those deported from European countries.” Some countries — such as the UK, Denmark and Finland — have already acted to stop such deportations, she said.
Vocational courses for women in Afghanistan were organized by the Turkish Cooperation Coordination Agency (TIKA) in collaboration with the Maarif Foundation.
Recently, the center organized training courses for women in sewing, embroidery, cooking and Turkish language to increase the participation of women in the socioeconomic development of the country.
The center launched six-month vocational courses to help Afghan women to acquire new professions, participate in the various aspects of social life, stand on their own feet and contribute to their family and to the economy.
The courses took place in the Maarif Foundation’s education center in Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Within the scope of vocational courses for women, 140 women were trained in sewing, embroidery, cooking and the Turkish language.
An Australian Army soldier seen shooting a unarmed Afghan man in footage aired by Four Corners has been identified and suspended from duty today.
Australian Defense has issued a statement saying the revelations are “serious and disturbing”.
The statement says the Australian Defense Force conducts its operations under “strict rules of engagement and promotes a culture of ethical and lawful behaviour”.
Defense Minister Linda Reynolds also issued a statement saying she had referred the matter to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
The shadow governor of IS-K terrorist group for Afghanistan’s Laghman province has surrendered to Afghan forces with his 30 fighters, officials said.
The Laghman governor’s press office in a press release said that the detainees were the residents of Laghman province who have terrorist activities in Kunar province.
Fruit seller Kher Uddin and his two sons regularly attend Friday prayers with other laborers at a mosque in Bagrami, on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, according to Reuters.
But during recent prayers, the message – delivered to rows of worshipers clad in warm winter cloaks and jackets – took a somewhat different turn, to the need for action on climate change and environmental concerns, through measures such as reducing litter and planting trees.
“It is a common lesson of moral and Islamic teachings not to create extra and hazardous waste in public places and water bodies, be it plastic, bottles or whatever,” said Mawlawi Obaid Ullah, the mosque’s imam, after the prayers.
“I teach people to the best of my knowledge on being responsible and sensible”, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Uddin, 40, said he found the sermon “very different than usual” but also “much needed and relevant”.
The past year of harsh drought and frigid winter weather in Afghanistan is “all in the hands of Allah – but we can do our bit of good work,” he said.
“I have almost lived my life,” he added, smiling at his sons. “Now we need to think and act for our future generations.”
The embassy of Afghanistan in Australia has expressed deep sadness by the reports of serious allegations of war crimes in showcased in a documentary released by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV channel on March 16 2020.
The embassy in a statement called for a complete, impartial and timely investigation of these allegations and trusts the Australian Judicial system in this regard.
“While in close contact with the Australian government, the embassy is constantly monitoring the latest developments on these allegations and will update Afghan community members in Australia and authorities in the national headquarters accordingly,” the statement added.
The documentary is about Australian special forces soldiers committed executions of Afghans in a video obtained by Four Corners and broadcast on Monday night.
It showed, among other things, footage of an Australian SAS soldier committing an act that most of his colleagues in the regiment would regard as appalling – shooting an apparently unarmed Afghan man at point blank range while he was subdued and lying in a wheat field.
A subsequent army investigation cleared the soldier of wrongdoing after being told that the Afghan man was spotted with a radio and “engaged” and shot from 15 to 20 metres away.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) spokesman says China has asked the Afghan government for a list of required equipment to fight the coronavirus and the authorities have shared what the government needs.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, the MoPH spokesman, Wahidullah Mayar said there were no new positive cases registered in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.
“In total we had 340 test samples and only 22 of them were positive,” Mayar said.
In the meantime, Mayar stated that a thermometer is installed at Islam Qala border between Herat and Iran, which can detect fever and another one will be installed in Kabul international airport.
According to Mayar, the health officials is working to strengthen home quarantine. He said only about 10,000 Afghans have arrived in Iran since yesterday.
The MoPH spokesman rejected reports about the three individuals, who had recently deported from Iran, died after going through an unknown sever disease.
He added that today a laboratory for coronavirus tests will begin work in Herat and there will be no need to send the samples to Kabul for testing.
A pharmaceutical company in central China’s Hunan Province has donated a large sum of a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that treats bronchitis to Afghanistan.
The medicine, Yinhuang Qingfei Capsule, has been listed as a recommended TCM in the treatment plan for the COVID-19 by the provincial TCM regulator in Hunan.
A shipment of 1,500 boxes of the capsule, manufactured and donated by Hunan Anbang Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., is on its way to Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and will be sent to the Afghan capital of Kabul on March 25 via air.
“A major outbreak is a test of social responsibility of pharmaceutical companies,” said Chen Feibao, chairman of Anbang. “We will do our utmost to fight the epidemic with people all over the world.”
Overseas Chinese chambers of commerce in the United States, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other countries have contacted Anbang in hopes of obtaining the drug to fight the COVID-19.
In 2019, the drug passed the clinical trial in Pakistan and proved effective for Pakistani patients.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Afghan citizens who have fled to Pakistan will have to wait longer before they can return to their native country, because the coronavirus outbreak has hindered repatriation efforts.
The UNHCR said its voluntary repatriation centers in parts of Pakistan have been “closed until further notice” due to the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“We have temporarily suspended voluntary repatriation due to the extenuating circumstances,” UNHCR Deputy Representative Iain Hall said Tuesday. “The UNHCR’s utmost priority is to support global efforts on lessening the spread and impact of COVID-19, and to assist the government of Pakistan with its comprehensive preparedness and response plans.”
“[The International Organization for Migration] and UNHCR are taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees,” the U.N. agency said. “This is a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential.
The National Security Council (NSC) says that the Afghan government’s position on the release of Taliban prisoners remains unchanged.
The spokesman of NSC, Javid Faisal said, “Our position on the release of prisoners remains unchanged.”
He noted that the Taliban will have to stop killing Afghans and provide guarantees that those getting released shall not be returning to war.
“Time for them to end violence and commit to a dignified peace,” he added.
This comes as the US Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has declared that the United States would like to see the Taliban’s prisoners’ release as soon as possible.
The U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has warned that coronavirus poses a mortal threat amid political crisis in Afghanistan.
“This crisis undermines security. Coronavirus poses a mortal threat and requires Afghans to put their country, and its people, first. It is a matter of life and death,” he said in a Twitter post.
Khalilzad further added “It is time for Afghans to compromise and put their differences aside to resolve the political crisis resulting from elections and dual inaugurations.”
He also added ” Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the United States understands.”
U.S. State Department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells says the Afghan leaders must prioritize and protect unity of the nation.
“Parallel Afghan governments are not the answer, and will be harmful to the Afghan people,”.
She stressed that the impasse over governance must end.
The remarks come as still the differences between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have not been solved.
The Taliban in Afghanistan has promised safe passage to international healthcare organisations and humanitarian workers who are fighting against the coronavirus.
In a statement, the group urged health agencies to provide medicine, send aid and the necessary equipment to areas under their control.
The Taliban claims the virus is a God-sent scourge in response to “disobedience” and “sins of mankind”.
Afghanistan has 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Health concerns are mounting in the country; every day thousands of Afghans cross the border with Iran, the regional epicentre of the crisis.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad says the United States would like to see prisoner releases begin as soon as possible in line with the U.S.-Taliban agreement.
“No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides,” Khalilzad said.
He stressed that it is time for Afghans to compromise and put their differences aside to resolve the political crisis resulting from elections and dual inaugurations.
“This crisis undermines security,” he asserted.
Khalilzad added that the coronavirus poses a mortal threat and requires Afghans to put their country, and its people, first which is a matter of life and death.