Recent Events in Afghanistan

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As mentioned in the previous posting about the recent events in Pakistan, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been affected gravely by war and violence in the last decade. Afghanistan has also faced internal strife in the last few years as a result of the rise of the Islamic State. The Islamic State also known as ISIS and ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant respectively, are commonly referred to as Daesh. The Islamic State was formed by a group of individuals that use Salafi Islam, a sect of Sunni Islam, to give grounds to their violent behaviour towards minorities who are considered to be heretics and to justify their goal of building a Caliphate.

The Afghan people are no stranger to oppressive regimes and leadership structures and religious fundamentalism in its history. Despite this, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has waged a war on ISIS and has been quite successful in defeating them in the Eastern part of the country where they were known to have infiltrated certain provinces.

ISIS’ violence in Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East and South Asia has generally been targeted towards members of minority communities such as Yazidis, Ahmadis, Zaidis, and Shia as they are considered to be “infidels,” “apostates and “heretics” as per the ISIS based on Salafi ideology.

On Sunday the 24th of July, two ISIS suicide bombers killed upwards of 80 peaceful civilian protesters, and injured 200 others. This attack was the most fatal one since 2001, which is when the Taliban insurgency began. This lead to a day of mourning as declared by the government and the interior ministry motioned to ban public gatherings in order to avoid attacks like this one. The gathering was described to be a “Shia gathering” as most of the protesters belonged to the Hazara community. Hazaras mainly live in Afghanistan, Balochistan and Karachi and are considered both ethnic and religious minorities, as they belong to the Shia sect of Islam. Their minority status makes them targets for ISIS-led violence, and since they are losing their presence in Afghanistan, they want to stay relevant. To read more please visit this link.

In an article in Al Jazeera, the writer addresses how recent conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in decreased national security and significantly diminished the livelihood of those who depend on their harvests. There has been a wave of economic migrants that have left Afghanistan for better economic opportunity, but have returned due to being unwelcome in the countries that they migrate to. The article states that out of the 384 districts in Afghanistan, over 300 are not secure. This has resulted in 1.2 million individuals being internally displaced across safer provinces. The article also reports that out of the 300 districts that have been rendered not secure, 10 have no governmental infrastructure at all. The militant insurgency and ISIS are long-term effects of the US invasion in Afghanistan, this leaves returnees, members of minorities, teachers, journalists, judges, lawyers, political activists and farmers at risk. Read more here.

Although the Taliban controls a fraction of what it once used to, they are still considered to be a threat by the United States and Afghanistan alike. On September 19th the US lead an airstrike, which killed eight Afghan police officers instead of actual threats such as Taliban leadership, was described by the US as either a mistaken set of coordinates or the security forces getting caught in the middle. More information on this event can be found here.

This image provides a visual understanding to who controls what in Afghanistan and more information can be found at this link.

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Recent Events in Pakistan (9/14)

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Pakistan and Afghanistan are both countries that have been plagued by war, civil unrest and sectarian violence in the last decades. Many argue that these unfortunate set of circumstances are what set these countries back compared to other countries especially in terms of education.

In a recent article published by the The News International according to the UN Global Education Monitoring Report – 2016, Pakistan is 50 years behind in primary education and 60 years behind in secondary education. In 2015 global leaders collectively agreed upon the terms that by 2030 both boys and girls should have access to state-sponsored primary and secondary education. As per the UN report 57 million are illiterate and 24 million children are not in school: 5.6 million of whom are of primary school schooling age, 5.5 million of whom are of secondary schooling age, and a whooping 10.4 million of whom are of upper secondary schooling age are all out of school. This indicates the difficulty that Pakistan will have in helping to achieve the global goal set for 2030. Additionally, in poorer rural areas among the male literacy rate is at 64%, whereas the female literacy rate is a dismal 14%. Much of female illiteracy is due to the influence of conservative leaders and the Taliban in rural areas.

Despite the situation in Pakistan, politicians are reacting because the reality is that a country does not grow without education. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister’s vision of promoting education has been executed by Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, Provincial Minister for Education. The education reforms are not limited to the primary and secondary school level, Khan has been instrumental in leading an initiative for Pakistani students to go abroad and obtain their PhD. To read more about this read this article in the Pakistan Observer.

An article in Dunya News discusses a similar movement has come to light that is being lead by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The HEC has pledged to send 10,000 PhD candidates to the United States to pursue studies in Agriculture and Food Security, Medical and Allied Health Sciences, Energy, Water, Climate Change and Advanced Digital Technology. Although this is positive progress in terms of education, the focus on tertiary education has been criticized when levels of primary and secondary education are so low and ignored by certain provincial leaders.

Pakistan declared September 13th to be Eid al Adha, which is also a national holiday. Eid al Adha marks the end of the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, one of the five pillars in Islam, in Saudi Arabia. Although this day is supposed to be celebrated with family, friends and food, once again Pakistan was hit by a wave of deadly violence. After a bomb blast in Quetta, there were two police casualties and eight others were injured. Additionally, the bomb caused chaos and resulted in a stampede.

In Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir a mainly Muslim state, there are curfews imposed and prayers cancelled at mosques after there was deadly violence. Two individuals were shot and killed by security forces, and several more were wounded. Another 50 people were injured when security forces tried to stop protests near Srinagar airport. They were injured by the use of tear gas and pellet guns.

Although many Muslims consider this day to be one of the holiest days on the Islamic calendars, unfortunately most have become desensitized to the deadly violence that takes place on holy days or any other for that matter.

We hope to keep you up to date with news of the South Asian region! Stay tuned for postings about current events as well as the situation in the area for women and the issue of education.

 

 

 

 

Global Giving Fundraising Campaign Launched!

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Global Giving Fundraising Campaign Launched!

We need help funding the security improvements we need to make to our schools in Pakistan. As a result we’re trying a new fundraising technique to us, we’ve launched a crowd funding campaign through Global Giving!  If you haven’t donated before, now is a great chance to give to a project that will have an immediate impact. The improvements range from hiring more security guards to installing gates and adding height to existing walls around the schools. Every dollar raised will make a difference!

 

Recent Events in Pakistan

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If you’re like us you’re constantly scanning international news sources looking for articles about Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we know most people aren’t usually looking for such specific articles. Recently there has been a lot of activity going on in Pakistan that has caught our attention so we decided to try and sum up some of the activity that has really caught our attention.

Back in February the Punjab Assembly ruled that all violence against women was a criminal act. This is a huge step towards women getting greater rights in a country where they previously had next to none. The bill called “Protection of Women against violence Bill 2015” outlines different resources now available for women who are victims of violence.

 “‘Violence’ itself has been redefined to mean any offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person including abatement of an offence, domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological and emotional abuse, economic abuse, stalking and cyber crime.” –Pakistan Today

The Prime Minister has also spoken out against honor killings, which is when families are allowed to kill women in their families that have brought disgrace on the family name and essentially make them disappear without retribution. There are thousands of women who are killed or go missing every year in Pakistan because of honor killings but the Prime Minister has finally spoken out saying that there is no honor in honor killings which is another huge step in changes in how women are treated in a country where they previously didn’t have a lot of rights. For more information check out this article.

Last month in the wake of the Brussels attack by ISIS there was another attack that didn’t gain as much media attention. This attack happened in Lahore, Pakistan this time it was carried out by the Pakistani Taliban against mainly Christians. Thankfully Lahore is on the other side of Islamabad from where our schools are in Attock City but it was a tragedy none the less. Over 70 people were killed and hundreds more were injured, majority of which were women and children. To learn more about the attack check out this article.

Recently, those of us in the west have primarily only heard about the different attacks that ISIS carries out but the Pakistani Taliban is also a very real threat to our students. Around the time of the attack in Lahore, the Pakistani government required Barakat to either increase security around our schools or close our doors. We chose to increase security so that our students could continue to gain an education even though it put a strain on our financials. Improvements to the schools included adding additional security guards at all buildings, installing security cameras, making the walls around the schools taller and installing gates. We did all of this to make school a safe place for our students to come and learn but we can’t do it alone!

Monsoon season is quickly approaching and we’re reminded of just how dangerous monsoons can be. This past weekend there was flash flooding in the provinces just north of our schools. Thankfully our schools were not affected but it was certainly a reminder of just how dangerous flash flooding can be. 53 people were killed and many more injured not to mention all of the houses and businesses that are now covered in mud from the flood waters. Summer monsoons are not far behind so it’s only a matter of time till we start seeing more stories like this one.

We hope you find these articles as interesting as we did!

 

 

Changes to Barakat!

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We realize we haven’t posted in a while and there are reasons for that. Usually we post about articles we find interesting and think you will too but this time we have news of our own! In late December one of our event coordinators, Mia Buchsbaum, took on the role of Administrator of our U.S. offices. During that time we also opted to close down our formal offices in Cambridge, MA. The reason for this is simple we want to make it possible for even more of every donation to go to what’s most important to us and likely most important to you as well, our programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan!

With that in mind, in the new year we took a close look at the yearly budgets for our programs to see where else we could lower overhead costs so a larger portion of funds we send overseas could go to our students instead of administrative costs. The result was the decision to close our main office for our Afghanistan programs located in Kabul Afghanistan and shift all operations to our smaller North Office. Our North Office is much closer to where our programs are actually taking place and thus has much closer ties to the community we’re trying to serve so is in a better position to represent what the programs need as opposed to a larger office south of the programs. This project is currently underway and will take about six months to be fully completed. However, we have already seen a drop in administrative costs for our Afghanistan program which means already more of every dollar donated is going to where it’s needed most, the schools!

On a much happier and exciting note we’re excited to announce that we had over 100 women graduate from our literacy programs at the end of December! The literacy program runs from April to December every year so it is on break till April when classes will resume again. The 2014-2015 school year also saw a record number of students enrolled in our programs with over 3,000 students enrolled, 62% of which were female! Stay tuned for more blog posts!

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Celebrating What Matters

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The holiday season is upon us, and it is sometimes difficult to not get lost in the overall chaos of shopping, spending, and self-absorbing in all of the gifts we wish to have. Yes, we can be thankful, but do we really see what truly matters during the holiday season? Are we thankful for what we view as life’s “simplicities”? Meaning, our cars, our homes, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and most importantly, the one thing that got us to obtain these items, our education.

Many people do not realize that over half of the world does not have the opportunities that we have in the United States to receive an education. This type of education is not collegiate-level, it is intermediate and secondary. A lot of people, women especially, are forced to drop out of school due to unsafe conditions, familial obligations, health issues, and the list goes on into much deeper, scarier realities that we are not accustomed to seeing in our daily lives.

Despite all of the craziness and chaos in your home this holiday season, take some time to think about what is happening in the rest of the world. There are a plethora of programs reaching towards educating the world’s youth that are continuing to grow in success.

Barakat, Inc. is a organization that builds schools in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and continues to enrich these school’s literacy programs with each donation received.

If you would like to donate to our literacy programs and schools during this holiday season, please visit our website here. We appreciate each and every donation, no matter the amount, and hope you have a healthy and happy holiday season.

Over $1 Million Dollars Awarded to Groups Supporting Young Women

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With and For Girls Collective, an international organization that supports educating adolescent girls through development projects, decided to donate over $1 million dollars in grants to twenty organizations around the world that value women’s rights and education. Each organization was awarded up to $50,000 dollars from With and For Girls Collective, and are allowed to spend the money however they feel necessary in order to support the organization’s values.

According to Muna Wehbe, CEO of the Stars Foundation, the World Bank  estimates that two cents out of every $1 dollar donated through international aid is used for female adolescent education. This means that although women play a vital and necessary role in the continuing of the human race, their education seems to be valued the least.

Organizations that were able to receive the award include Aware Girls, a Pakistan based organization that teaches leadership and educating women on HIV and AIDS and the Shorqu Organization, which works with refugees from both Palestine and Bethlehem, as well as eighteen other organizations out of the 125 nominated for the grants.

These awards indicate new beginnings and goals throughout the world with the hope that donations for women’s education will continue to flourish, ultimately allowing women to become more knowledgeable in subjects they enjoy while learning in safe environments.

To read the full story, visit The Guardian.

To continue to support educating women in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, visit Barakatworld.org to find more information or make a donation.