Visit of ambassador of Afghanistan
His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Daud Yaar, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the UK, spent three days as the guest of the Asia Scotland Institute in early November, meeting with government, academia, students and members of the armed forces who have served in Afghanistan.
The principal purpose of the visit was for the Ambassador to meet those interested in developments in Afghanistan, and in particular to connect with the higher education community to explore opportunities for cooperation and the provision of scholarships for Afghan students. Whilst in Scotland with the Institute team, the Ambassador paid visits to the universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrew’s and Strathclyde.
The Ambassador also had discussions about furthering Scottish-Afghan relations with Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development.
“Building Afghanistan’s Future: The Education Challenge”(click to watch)was the Ambassador’s topic when he addressed the Asia Scotland Institute at the University of Edinburgh Business School. He was joined in a lively panel discussion and Q&A with the audience by Professor Patricia Jeffery of Edinburgh University’s Centre for South Asian Studies and Professor Susan Deacon, Scotland’s first Cabinet Minister for Health and Community Care.
He spoke of education as the “remedy for almost all human ills”, lamented the purge of educated people from Afghanistan in the Soviet era as “an atrocity…the biggest blow for my country”, described how the number of children in school has risen from about 200,000 when the Taliban were toppled to 9 million today, and focused on the importance of education, and women’s education in particular, for democracy and peace.
“Bigotry is the ruling principle in an uneducated society. In that sense education helps create tolerance in society…educating women is an impetus to peace” he said.
He also urged the international community to continue to engage with Afghanistan, both as a post-Cold War moral responsibility but also as a strategic and commercial necessity; Afghanistan has an estimated $1 trillion worth of untapped mineral wealth, he noted. Disengagement, on the other hand, could reverse the recent gains made in rebuilding the nation.
As for Scotland, when asked for the best way to engage with Afghanistan he urged Scottish universities to look at ways to offer education opportunities to young Afghans, especially in the fields of science, technology, mining and engineering. He expressed concern at the “unacceptable quality” of some of the higher education on offer in Afghanistan and suggested that Scottish expertise might be able to help.
The Ambassador carried on the education conversation at the University of Strathclyde and at St. Andrew’s University where he met students and faculty at a lunch in his honour hosted by the Principal, Dr Louise Richardson.
In Glasgow, Dr. Yaar was greeted enthusiastically by members of theScottish Afghan Society who were clearly delighted to meet him and treated him, Roddy Gow and Gurjit Singh Lalli from the Institute to a typical Afghan meal in the evening before he returned to Edinburgh.
On two separate occasions the Ambassador also met with servicemen and women who had been in Afghanistan to thank them personally for their service. In Edinburgh, he was greeted at the Castle by Major General Nick Eeles and visited the Scottish National War Memorial where he wrote a moving message in the Visitor’s Book that read:
“Freedom and liberty should live forever thanks to the courage and the sacrifice these men and women showed during that time of adversity. We all shall cherish their memory and thank them for the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Ambassador personally thanked those whom he met and also later that day at Kentigern House in Glasgow where he was met by Brigadier Andrew Williams, Deputy Military Secretary, and spoke with other servicemen and women who had recently served in Afghanistan.
This was a busy visit during which the Ambassador saw three great universities and met with a number of people. He left expressing great enthusiasm after his first experience of Scotland and expressing the hope that his President might visit in early 2014.
The Ambassador’s visit was part of the Institute’s programme of ‘Ambassador Briefings’ following the visits of the High Commissioner for Singapore and Peter Wilson, former Asia Pacific Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (click to view interview) earlier in the year. We are looking forward to welcoming the Ambassadors of Mongolia and the Philippines in early 2014.
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