Former Taliban hostage urges world to engage with Afghan rulers

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Timothy Weeks, 54, an Australian teacher kid-napped in Afghanistan along with his American colleague in 2016, is intending to return to the coun-try and serve its people under the Taliban.

The longest-held captive in Afghanistan’s four-decade-long conflict, he spent 1,192 days (more than three years) in Taliban custody along with his American colleague, before they were swapped with the US in exchange of three Taliban leaders.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Weeks, who converted to Islam in the second year of his captivity and prefers to be called by his new name Jibra’il Omar, said he is planning to team up former Afghan parliamentarian Soona Barakzai, currently in Australia to set up a charity for Af-ghanistan.He is also encouraging the minority Sikh commu-nity to return to their homeland, who had escaped fearing for their lives after the Taliban take over.

“Inclusivity is happening gradually in the country,” said Weeks, while referring to a recent meeting between former Afghan Sikh MP Narendra Singh Khalsa and Taliban leaders.

Jibra’il said he had contacted Khalsa, and arranged his meeting with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting interior minister in the interim Taliban-led govern-ment.

Although he was tortured by the Taliban during his three-year captivity, the Australian teacher wants to help the new rulers and promote education in the country.

“Once I was listening to children’s voices through a small window in one of the cells, and as a teacher, I adored them. This was the moment of my gradual shift, and I decided to help the people after my re-lease,” he said, adding that “Afghan children de-serve an education and a better life.”

While negotiating with his reflexes and eating food slowly, he pleaded with the world, to understand the Taliban and give them time, as they gave to gueril-las, who after decades of fighting became rulers in East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation dominated by Christians.“I ask the world to understand the Taliban and give them time, just like they gave to guerillas who be-came rulers in East Timor,” said Weeks, who was in Ankara.Recalling the dreadful day, when he was kidnapped, Weeks or Jibra’il stated that on Aug. 9, 2016, on his way back to home, after finishing teaching Afghan police officers at the American University at 8 p.m. local time, the van in which he was traveling was intercepted just outside the university. “I was still trying to sort out things in my bag that vehicle came to a stop and my head was smacked against the front seat’s steel bar. —Agencies

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