After World War I, the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate fell apart, leaving a void. Consequently, the glory of the once mighty Golden Age of Islam started to fade away. After a few decades the vacuum which was created after the demise of Caliphate was fulfilled by formation of the biggest organisation for upholding and maintaining the dignity, independence and rights of the entire Muslim community. This institution formalised the unity of the then Muslim world and is now called ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’ or OIC.
This 57-member organisation appeared as a unified platform to safeguard Muslim and protect the interests of the Muslim world and promote peace and security. Since its birth, OIC’s role as a guardian for Muslim community has been commendable. On the other hand, the center for global geopolitics has shifted to South Asia in 21st century. That is why OIC should put extra focus on the security condition of Muslim countries in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan and Bangladesh. However, the nature of crisis of these two countries are opposite in nature: Afghanistan witnessing dire humanitarian and economic downfall and Bangladesh hosting the world’s biggest refugee camp. In these conditions, OIC is expected to play a strong role to overcome the plight.
More than half of Afghan population
The looming catastrophe in Afghanistan has been exacerbating in an unprecedented degree with 55% population facing hunger, lack of shelters and other social services. More than 23 million are facing acute hunger, 9 million children are malnourished, and 3.5 million are forcibly displaced. This country was already reeling through drought as a result of never-ending conflicts and its crisis seems to escalate in the severe cold of winter season. With freezing temperature, millions of people might be exposed to threats of starvation, famine, winter diseases and most unfortunate deaths. Even experts say that hunger and poverty following the Taliban takeover seems to have killed more Afghans this winter alone than all the violence did during the past two decades.
What role can OIC play to reshape Afghanistan?
At the very first place, OIC, also “the collective voice of the Muslim world”, should immediately collect aid from Muslim countries and distribute it among Afghans. At the 17th extraordinary meeting of the OIC, the member states concurred to launch humanitarian assistance for this crisis-hit country. Thanks to Pakistan for hosting this vital session. Now, OIC should coordinate the reliefs from other countries and distribute among Afghans. Also, OIC should make contact with the Taliban on a regular basis to administer equal and proper distribution of relief materials.
The most essential responsibility of OIC is now to use its influence over the Taliban regime to make them agree on building an inclusive government that has “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women” and upholds human rights. The Taliban should acknowledge the necessity of educating its women and involvement of women into decision making for the welfare of the nation. By respecting the basic human rights, Taliban could prevent refugee exodus from Afghanistan.
OIC should also play a key role in making Taliban co operate with the international bodies and aid agencies to ensure well distribution of the relief goods among the people. Additionally, they should co operate with other agencies like the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc, diplomats and envoys to restart working in Afghanistan.
Another area OIC can contribute in reforming Afghanistan is to make the Taliban realise the worth of education for everyone. OIC should pressure Taliban to make a curriculum for assuring education for everyone and develop standards for it.
What Taliban needs right now is to find an immediate political solution to combat the crisis and reform its economy. Last but not the least, OIC should push Taliban to reassure that terrorism and drug trafficking should not spill over to neighbouring countries.
World’s Biggest Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh
Ever since Bangladesh welcomed the 1.2 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, she has been paying the price of its generosity. Despite many diplomatic efforts, the repatriation of Rohingya people has been lingering for quite long. The exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh led to numerous strategic, economic and environmental issues as Bangladesh is already an overpopulated nation. Nevertheless, Bangladesh continues to generously host the world’s largest and growing refugee settlement despite huge burden on economy, food management, limited resources and other circumstances. Even Bangladesh planned to relocate some of the Rohingyas to Bhashanchar to ensure better living standard for them through Ashrayan 3 Project on its own financing.
What role can OIC play to resolve the crisis?
With the backing of OIC, Gambia, an OIC member, volunteered to file a case for Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the alleged genocide of the Rohingya in November, 2019. On January 23, 2020, the ICJ unanimously passed a resolution on protection of Rohingya refugees, preventing acts on genocide and killings. On the other hand, OIC countries commenced its fund-raising campaign in December, 2020 and could donate $1.2 million to Bangladesh. All in all, OIC’s support in resolving the crisis has been commendable.
But Myanmar should face continued pressure till the successful repatriation of millions of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Apparently, OIC has contributed a lot but there still a long way to go. In recent times Rohingya refugee crisis and repatriation are not seeing much attention as the focus has shifted to other issues, such as Afghanistan security issues and other global environment crisis. OIC should make sure that the Rohingya crisis never loses its focus on international agencies.
Bangladesh has always been an obedient member of OIC. It promptly responded to the resolution of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan on OIC’s 17th extraordinary meeting with an announcement of providing aid through food and medical support. As pledged, OIC should show solidarity with Bangladesh apart from playing a pivotal role in Afghanistan crisis to improve the security situation in South Asia.
—The writer is a Dhaka-based women and human rights activist. [email protected]