Hopeful Turks aid Afghans

March 1, 2002

Turkish universities are to help in the reconstruction process for Afghanistan. Hacettepe, Bilkent and Istanbul universities have said they will provide training programmes in medicine and education.

Turkish academic Ihsan Dogramaci, who has recently returned from Afghanistan, said: "Turkey's forces should be mobilised to help improve the country's ailing health and education conditions."

The professor led a four-member academic team to the Afghan capital Kabul. During the visit, the team agreed with the Afghan administration that Turkish universities would provide a series of education and medical development programmes.

The programmes will involve Afghanis being sent to Turkey to train. He added: "When appropriate accommodation conditions exist, Turkish academics will travel to Kabul to set up training programmes in the capital."

Turkey has a long tradition of assisting Afghanistan. In the 1920s, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, provided university scholarships for Afghan women. That tradition continued until the Taliban came to power.

The Ataturk Children's Hospital in Kabul was constructed with Turkish support. Professor Dogramaci and his team visited the hospital, where they met with ministers of the Northern Alliance to discuss the nature of support Turkey could give.

Professor Dogramaci held a series of meetings with Enayetullah Balegh, rector of Kabul University. Education and medicine were the agreed priorities for rebuilding the country's education system.

A large proportion of the population of Afghanistan identifies itself as Turkish and speaks various dialects of the language.

General Rahsid Dostum, now a minister in the Afghan administration, receives financial and political support from the Turkish government.

Turkey's offers of support are widely seen as an attempt to build its influence with the new regime.

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