• Soumik Saha

Unite to help the Afghan people

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

TWO former Brunel students are holding a charity event to help people in Afghanistan.

Ariana Abawe, 22, and Bizhan Neromand, 24, have been restless since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last week. Both Afghans living in the UK feel the same fear, chaos, uncertainty, and dejection that fills the Afghan mind all over the world now.

Ariana, 22, has been working as a journalist since she graduated from Brunel University

Ariana has been working as a journalist in the UK, after graduating from Brunel University. She is the founder of the Ariana Magazine, a magazine dedicated to Afghanistan, which aims to introduce the world to the beautiful side of the country, as compared to its war-torn image.

Ariana said: "With the Taliban fully controlling the provinces around Afghanistan, it is very worrying for me and all Afghans and non-Afghans around the world. This group is known for its brutal acts of violence and the harsh rules it enforces. I just pray people are allowed to live in peace, especially women and ethnic groups such as the Hazaras and the minority communities like the Sikhs, Hindus, and Jews that live in Afghanistan."

Bizhan Neromand is also a Brunel graduate and is now a British-Afghan actor and producer. He is the founder of A&B Films, a film production and distribution company dedicated to Afghan cinema in the UK. Since its inception in 2019, the company has released its first movie Salam London in the UK, and another short film Tahammul. Bizhan played the lead role in Salaam London and was critically acclaimed for his performance.

Bizhan, 24, is now a British-Afghan film director and producer

Bizhan said: "I am very worried, like everyone else in and outside of Afghanistan, because of the situation and circumstances. We don’t know how long this situation will drag on, and if at all there will be an end to this harshness. At the moment mobile phones are still working properly in Afghanistan.

"I am getting to speak to my relatives a few times a day. I am worried if they put an end to the telecom, it would disturb us all."

Women are at a vulnerable juncture in Afghanistan once again after 20 years since the last Taliban rule between 1996-2001. Speculations and fear loom large regarding women’s rights and liberty in the country.

Bizhan recalled: "We have seen numerous examples in the past how the Taliban forced people to do certain things that were even against our religion. Even forcing people to pray without ablution etc. In regards to women, there were numerous examples we witnessed. Women were not allowed to educate themselves, they had to be accompanied by a male while going out, they had to wear a chadari which covered the full face while going out, and we can go on and on and on with the list."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in the first Taliban press conference after the takeover, said that the rights of women in Afghanistan would be respected "within the framework of Islamic law." However, no clarification regarding the periphery of the “framework” was provided. It was also not clarified if dress restrictions including the mandatory usage of the all-covering burqa would be imposed on women or not.

Ariana said: "Under Islam itself, women have right to education, and right to work. The Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija in Islam was a very successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. I do not know, and we will not know what this statement will mean in their view, but if it is under Islam itself, it means women can have the same rights they worked hard to receive over these years."

In the press conference on Tuesday, Mujahid further claimed that the Taliban has evolved from 20 years back, and now has better “experience, maturity, and vision.”

When asked whether they believed in the Taliban claims, Ariana said: "People around the world including myself are very confused with this Taliban, saying one thing but doing another. The Taliban itself has many strict laws and has been very brutal ever since 1996. From all the innocent lives that have been taken over the years and recently too, I do not believe there can be a better version of the Taliban."

Bizhan said: "We cannot trust the Taliban as we don’t know what its plans are regarding Afghanistan. It’s really hard to say anything about the future of the people in Afghanistan. All we can do is pray for the best."

While shocking visuals of Afghans gathering in airports in their attempt to flee the country rolls through TV screens and social media, Ariana and Bizhan feel betrayed as Afghans.

Ariana said: "Afghanistan has been betrayed to an extent by its own people and the world at large. Over these 20 years, there hasn't been complete peace in the country. Innocent people have lost their lives in Afghanistan, and people have fled the country for a better life. I am sorry for all those who lost their lives there, but I don't understand the outcome of the Western intervention in Afghanistan. In terms of help, the UK has stated that it will allow 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan over a five-year resettlement plan. That is something which I am grateful for, but I wish the West will do more to help the people of Afghanistan."

Though thousands of miles away from their homeland, both Ariana and Bizhan want to be by the side of their people. They are now all set to organise an Afghan charity event on Wednesday, September 1 at the Milan Palace in Southall.

Ariana said: “We shall be raising money for the less fortunate in Afghanistan and shall provide them with food packs with essentials including vegetables, sugar, flour, oil, and rice in them. This event is open to everyone, Afghans, and non-Afghans to unite together.”

The event will feature Afghan singers like Tawab Jawed and Shabir Qurashi. The traditional dance of Afghanistan - Attan, and the traditional Afghan string instrument - Rubab, will adorn the event along with a fashion show showcasing traditional Afghan attire. The entry fee to the charity event will also include an Afghan dinner.

Ariana added: “I just pray that Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan find peace and can have the basic rights we all humans should have.”

To book tickets for the event visit www.eventbrite.co.uk or www.arianamagazine.com