3 Sep 2021

Helen Clark tells Kiwis to raise their voice: 'Afghanistan needs our help now'

12:36 pm on 3 September 2021

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is calling on New Zealanders to take action and support the need for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, as that country faces an uncertain future.

A convoy of Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul

A convoy of Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul Photo: AFP

As well as a return to power by the Taliban, the country is facing a shortage of food, following major droughts, Covid-19 and the desperate need for many people to get out of the country for their own safety.

Clark took part in a webinar, run by her foundation on Thursday, which included a number of Afghan people living in New Zealand.

The United Nations estimates 18 million people are at risk of severe hunger and the World Food Programme said the country will run out of food in one month.

Clark said her big concern is that, as often happens in global affairs, the immediate crisis, like the evacuation from Kabul Airport gets wide 24/7 media coverage, but then it melts away and the suffering and challenges facing the Afghan people are all but forgotten.

''This is a humanitarian crisis, it's a human crisis, a political crisis, it's a constitutional crisis, it's a crisis on every front.''

File photo: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark speaks during an interview at the 21st Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival in Ankara, Turkey

File photo: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark speaks during an interview at the 21st Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival in Ankara, Turkey Photo: AFP/ Anadolu Agency

With a food shortage looming, governments, like New Zealand, need to step up, as well as aid organisations.

''Humanitarian assistance is critical and getting our house in order here to give a Kiwi welcome to those on their way or already here and then that special allocation places outside the (refugee) quota for the remaining, Kiwi associated and families and then playing our part in supporting those who are at risk.''

Zahra Hussaini is a community advocate in Ōtautahi, Christchurch.

She said it is very hard to predict just what the Taliban will do now they are back in power.

She gives the example of her cousin who is on the run.

''He has to change location every single night and he moved from one city to another with his family because he said if I leave my family behind and as women are very vulnerable, they are going to be taken by the Taliban.''

She is pleading with the New Zealand government to help look after the vulnerable people in Afghanistan.

''They are the ones at most risk and I think New Zealand has a moral obligation to do its part, especially being at the forefront of usually leading in every humanitarian aspect.''

Hazara Afghan Association of New Zealand former president Zakaria Hazaranejad is predicting civil war in his home land, with the Northern Alliance, which is a coalition of mujahideen militias, taking on the Taliban.

''We have to understand that one ethnicity group can not govern alone. If this civil war starts it's going to be chaos. Six million plus population in Kabul and in the rest of the cities people will rise up, we will see door to door fighting and this is very disappointing.''

Abbas Nazari came to New Zealand as a refugee. He is warning against being sucked in by what he said is a sophisticated media savvy Taliban, with well spoken front people.

''That is done precisely so that folks like us in the west can look and say, 'wow perhaps they are different, perhaps this is a Taliban 2.0, perhaps they have learned the lessons of the 90s'. I think we have to be incredibly careful to not fall for that. What you have to realise is that beyond that, into the provinces, the Taliban look exactly as they were in the 90s.''

Clark has criticised media coverage of the Taliban take-over in Afghanistan.

She said most reporters on the ground in Kabul have only asked soft questions of the Taliban, ignoring the real situation in both the capital and in the provinces.

''It's as if these journalists are worried about they will loose access if they ask hard questions, so they ask soft questions and never put it to them, what this killing, what about that killing, what about these reports. So please watch everything with a lot of scepticism.''

New Zealanders concerned about the situation in Afghanistan need to express that view to their local MP to start the ball rolling, Clark said.

''Raise your your voice. Afghanistan needs our help now.''

Abbas Nazari said hundreds of refugees will need to be resettled in this country, and they will need a lot of help.

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