Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japanese Contribution to the Resolution of the Afghanistan Crisis in Cooperation with Indonesian Islam
OGAWA Tadashi / Professor at Atomi University

December 6, 2022
One year and several months have passed since the Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan in August 2021. During this period, major crises such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine have occurred, and the international community's attention has shifted away from Afghanistan. However, we must not overlook the humanitarian crisis in progress, because, poverty, hunger, and serious challenges to health and hygiene persist in Afghanistan as international aid has decreased.

Above all, women and children are the ones who face the most difficult situation. Domestic violence and harassment are surging in Afghan families in dire straits. In addition, directives preventing women‘s empowerment were issued. Among them, measures to stop girls from continuing their secondary education are depriving 1.2 million girls of educational opportunities.

The international community is faced with the dilemma that economic sanctions imposed with the intention of shifting the Taliban's stance are in fact increasing suffering for women and children in Afghanistan. In the midst of the sense of impasse, Indonesia is continuing its diplomatic efforts as a negotiator against the stubborn Taliban.

“Nahdlatul Ulama” (NU), an Islamic organization in Indonesia, has maintained a communication channel with Afghanistan, even under the Taliban’s control. Although “Nahdlatul Ulama Afghanistan” (NU Afghanistan) established in 2014 is not an organization under NU, its propagation of the principles of "moderation," "balance," "tolerance," etc., which NU claims are characteristic of Indonesian Islam, gives a sense of the extent of NU's influence.

At the end of 2021, when the Taliban was back in power, NU Afghanistan held its annual general meeting in Kabul. From Indonesia, KH As'ad Said Ali, an NU executive attended. As'ad is an Islamic leader with a unique background who served as number two in the government’s intelligence agency and has extensive connections with intelligence and diplomatic sources in the Indonesian government. Immediately after the Taliban regime was restored, he insisted that Indonesia should develop a public diplomacy on Afghanistan that allows Islamic leaders to frankly exchange views on a level beyond the official government position, and took the initiative in going into Afghanistan himself.

To the Afghan participants in the NU Afghanistan conference, As'ad enthusiastically preached that "moderation" is an essential value in Islam and a core teaching of the Qur'an.

As of August 2022, no country has recognized the Taliban, which violates women's rights, as an official government. In order for the Taliban to gain confidence from the international community, it must, of all things, change its oppressive policies toward women.

The urgent priority is the resumption of secondary education for girls. In September 2021, when the Taliban established a provisional government, it announced that it would "allow girls to attend school to the extent that Islamic law permits”. The Taliban subsequently announced that it would reopen schooling on March 23, 2022, but on the day of reopening, postponed it, citing such constraining factors as uniforms, commuting on foot, lack of separate classrooms for boys and girls, and a shortage of female teachers.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NU issued a statement of concern about the Taliban's decision and urged the Taliban to reconsider its policy. NU urged the Taliban saying that “with the help of talented women, we can make our society a better place. Give your daughters the best education you can give them. Because they are the visionaries who will chart out the future of the next generation.”

In July 2022, NU suggested to the Taliban that if there are not enough teachers, it will send NU female teachers to Afghanistan and that NU-affiliated institutions in Indonesia are ready to accept female students.

The Indonesian government is well aware that its success in modernizing and developing its economy as a multi-religious nation with an Islamic majority constitutes a valuable diplomatic asset, and is leveraging the religious networks of Islamic organizations to enhance its diplomatic clout vis-a-vis Afghanistan. NU, for its part, is building a bridgehead in the Islamic world in Afghanistan while working with the government.

This trend can be cited as a typical example of public diplomacy using religion, which has been gaining attention in recent years.

Japan has nurtured a partnership with Indonesian Islamic organizations such as NU through ODA and cultural exchanges. Based on such partnerships and through the Islamic organizations in Indonesia, there may be a way for Japan to contribute to stability and gender equality in Afghanistan by offering Japan's experience in seeking the ideal form of modern girls' education while respecting traditional values and customs that are different from those of the West.

Tadashi Ogawa is a professor at Atomi University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小川 忠 / 跡見学園女子大学 教授

2022年 12月 6日












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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japanese Contribution to the Resolution of the Afghanistan Crisis in Cooperation with Indonesian Islam