Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Scholarship Programs for Afghan Girls

All the condemnations of the Taliban after it banned Afghan women from attending university are not enough, be they international, regional, or Arab, and that includes the statement by the Saudi Foreign Ministry and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.  

What we need now is actions, not statements. Anyone who looks for them can find an immense number of statements, advice, and pleas to the Taliban over the past 40 years. None of them had any impact worth mentioning; all we have seen is more terrorism and backwardness.   

What we need is an immediate series of decisions. First of all, we need to stop recognizing, cooperating, and helping the Taliban until it reverses this decision and adjusts the curriculum taught to boys and girls.  

Secondly, we need to set up a scholarship program for Afghan women students that is cleverly designed. Indeed, good intentions and complacency have helped spread terrorism, and we thus need a scholarship program specially designed for Afghan women and one for the Yemeni women being oppressed by the Houthis.  

These scholarships would not necessarily imply traveling abroad. Rather, it demands that we design academic programs dedicated to these women. These programs should be varied in their length, and special diplomas should be offered to Afghan women and others suffering like them. They can be taught online from a distance; this can be done through video sessions or even by email.   

The objective is not to verify that female students attend the classes or that they provide answers. Instead, we must ensure that those who have begun pursuing an education can continue and that all Afghan women access the minimum level of education required for them to become aware of what is going around them and teach it in the future. We can thereby fight backwardness, terrorism, and inhumane ideas.  

This is an effort everyone must contribute to, the US, the West, and the countries of the regime, particularly the Gulf and Egypt, and above all, Saudi Arabia. We must all contribute because we will all fall victim to terrorism if we do not. The US, meanwhile, has a responsibility to do because of the sin of shamefully withdrawing from Afghanistan and handing power to the Taliban.   

We must remember that it is being said that Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Egypt were complicit in sending youths to Afghanistan to wage what was falsely called “jihad” in coordination with the US and Pakistan to fight the Soviet Union. However, everyone subsequently forgot about Afghanistan, and we all know how the rest of the story.   

Today and tomorrow, we should remind everyone that the Gulf state and Egypt are the ones who taught Afghan women. They taught Yemeni women oppressed by the Houthis, and they are one genuinely and practically confronting backwardness in the name of Islam.  

We must spark the flame of education in Afghanistan before it becomes an open-air terrorist camp and a hub for ideas that destroy our region and the Muslim world. This can be achieved through a program of “teaching the most dangerous region”.  

One could ask: what about the costs? The fact is that the costs of such programs are far lower than the cost of sending troops and peacekeepers. They also amount to less money than that being donated, and we don’t even know where this donated money is going.  

An online scholarship program for Afghan, Yemeni, and other women around the world is the most effective option we have, as well as the most practical and realistic. It demonstrates that we are concerned with improving lives and that is more important than condemnations.