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Turkey reopens 10 girls' schools in Afghanistan

Turkish foreign minister says Ankara is keen to help Afghan women by talking to Taliban and continue to provide them with education
Afghan schoolgirls walk along a path as they return from school in Mazar-i-Sharif on 30 October 2021 (AFP)
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Ankara

Turkey has managed to reopen 10 out of 14 girls’ schools operated by the Turkish government in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday during a parliamentary meeting. 

Cavusoglu said Turkey was trying to support Afghan women through diplomacy, which he personally conducted with a visiting Taliban delegation last month, urging interim foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to embrace all parties and groups in Afghanistan.

“Of course our suggestions aren’t enough. That’s why 10 out of 14 schools administered by Maarif Foundation have reopened,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Turkish state-funded foundation that runs a total of 80 schools in Afghanistan, of which 14 are for girls only.

Turkey remains the only Nato country to have a functioning embassy in Kabul after the Taliban takeover earlier this year. 

Cavusoglu said that Turkey had granted a scholarship to an Afghan girl who has taken first place in the Afghanistan university exam.

“Selgey Ismail will receive medical school training in Turkey with a Turkish state scholarship. We obtained a passport for her from the Taliban,” he said. 

He added that Ankara had been dispatching humanitarian aid to Kabul, most recently 33 tonnes of food aid. “Our aid work is still underway,” he said. 

Afghanistan is facing a severe food shortage as a result of the withdrawal of most western finance and aid following the withdrawal of US-led forces from the country. 

Airport talks

Cavusoglu also stated that the negotiations for Turkey to run Kabul international airport are still ongoing with the Taliban and Qatar. 

A dozen Turkish technicians have been in Kabul to help the Qataris operate the airport. MEE sources said they had been deployed there along with a small security team on 1 September.

A person familiar with the airport issue said Turkey had been helping the operation on an “ad hoc and case-by-case” basis, even though there hasn't been any final deal on the issue. "There isn't any deal on systematic and regular work [at the airport] yet," the person added.

Turkey and Qatar have been thrashing out a deal with the Taliban to operate the airport since the Afghan group dramatically seized Kabul on 15 August amid the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years.

The draft deal revealed by MEE in August included provisions that would see Ankara recognising the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and providing security at Kabul airport through a private firm.