Officials from Mazar-e-Sharif Municipality said on Thursday that preparations are underway for the upcoming Nowruz festival, which marks the start of the new Persian Solar Year.
The main Nowruz festival in Afghanistan is traditionally held around March 21 in Mazar in northern Balkh province.
“We are completely prepared,” said Mawlavi Mohammad Nasim Abid, deputy head of Mazar Municipality.
He said the city is currently being cleaned up and that the municipality “ensures our people that we made preparations and there are no problems regarding security.”
Afghans have meanwhile called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to allow Nowruz celebrations to go ahead.
We “urge the government of Islamic Emirate to mark the Nowruz festival as it was marked in the past years,” said Mohammad Asif, a resident of Mazar.
IEA officials meanwhile said that there are two Eids for Muslims, and that Nowruz celebrations are not necessary.
“Our leaders have not talked about the Nowruz celebration so far. Preparation for this big festival is too soon,” said Balil Karimi, deputy spokesman of IEA.
Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) in coordination with Mazar Municipality has meanwhile stepped in again this year to help prepare the city for Nowruz.
The company has helped clean up the Hazrat Ali Shrine in Mazar.
“We work for the city’s greenery every year, and clean corners of Rawza-e-Mubarak. Our preparations are completed,” said Yafiz Saqat, a representative of AWCC in Balkh.
Educational center established for war-affected students in Balkh
In Balkh district of Afghanistan’s Balkh province, a teacher has established an educational center for more than two hundred war-affected students in cooperation with a charity organization.
The teacher said that in this region, due to the past wars, students were deprived of education to attend school for several years and could not continue their education.
Mahbub Afghan Mal, head of the organization who cooperated in establishing this educational center, said that more than two hundred students are currently studying in different classes; however, expressed concern over the lack of more facilities for students.
“Currently, the facilities we have are enough for a hundred people, as you filmed the classrooms, there are fifty to sixty students in each of our classroom, which is not standard and we have no choice but to do so,” he said.
However, a number of teachers have added that they are using the opportunity created to make up for lost lessons, calling on the government to cooperate with them in order to establish more educational centers and libraries.
“I stopped studying for five to six years, now I came to this educational center to continue my studies and achieve my dreams,” said a student.
“The teachers here are very good. We ask the government to cooperate for us with chairs, tables, pens and bags,” said another student.
It is said that subjects such as math, computer, calligraphy, English, Pashto, Dari and mobile phone repair are taught in this educational center, and its sponsor is a charity foundation.
Meanwhile, in several other districts of this province, the wars of the last few years have caused schools to remain closed.
Women’s handicraft exhibition launched in Balkh
An exhibition under the name of “female entrepreneurs’ handicrafts” has been launched in Balkh province for three days.
The organizers of this exhibition said that women entrepreneurs have displayed their handicrafts in eighty stalls.
Dozens of women in this exhibition called holding such exhibitions useful for the presence of women in the society, especially in business affairs, and demanded more participation of women in institutions and offices from the government.
In this exhibition, women displayed their crafts in different sections, including sewing, weaving, flower embroidery, leather embroidery, bag sewing, dairy and pastry making.
The officials of the Balkh Chamber of Commerce, especially its women’s section, said that holding such an exhibition will be positive when there are a foreign buyer and people support domestic products by purchasing them.
Since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan took control of the country in August last year, this has been the third exhibition launched in Balkh province.
Balkh residents welcome search campaign but unhappy about absence of policewomen
While Balkh residents have welcomed house-to-house searches for illegal weapons, some have raised concerns about the lack of policewomen involved in the operations.
This comes after security institutions in the province launched a 10-day house-to-house search campaign three days ago.
Despite mixed reaction from the public, many residents have said security will improve once weapons have been confiscated.
“We have no problem with this house-to-house effort. We are satisfied with the Islamic Emirate that they have conducted house-to-house searches,” said Ahmad, a resident of Balkh Province.
But others are unhappy about the absence of policewomen, saying male members of households are not always home.
“Women should be with them when they go door-to-door. Second, their time should be clear; those who are employed, their women are alone at home, women should be with them [the police], women should be searched by women and men should be searched by men,” said Rabi, another resident of Balkh province.
Activists in Balkh have said house-to-house searches should be based on law so as to prevent any harassment by police.
But the Balkh police say that the campaign has been launched at the request of the people and that the security forces will not violate people’s rights during the search operation.
“At the request of the people of Mazar-e-Sharif, the security forces decided to form a commission to conduct house-to-house searches in Mazar-e-Sharif through three security agencies,” said Asif Waziri, the spokesman of the Balkh Province Police Command.
The governor of Balkh, however, asks political opponents of the Islamic Emirate to return to the country.
“NATO and the US on its side, ISAF, were not able to make the mercenary system (republic government) strong or resist or defend themselves against the limited number of Mujahideen,” said Qudratullah Abu Hamza, the governor of Balkh.
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