Afghanistan rationale: part 2

People –especially my family and classmates– often ask me how on Earth I can even entertain the notion that there’s still hope for a place as poor, corrupt, and wrecked by conflict as Afghanistan. My friends, out of respect for my convictions, generally hold their tongues, but I know they wonder, too.

Well, here’s one reason I still have hope.

From National Geographic:

“The Hazaras are producing the most enthusiastic, educated, forward-looking youth, who are seizing the opportunities provided by the new situation,” says Michael Semple, a red-bearded Irishman who serves as the deputy to the special representative of the European Union in Afghanistan. [Musa] Shafaq helped found the Center for Dialogue, a Hazara student organization with 150 members. The group publishes its own magazine, holds events promoting “humanism and pluralism,” and works with human rights organizations to monitor elections. Semple deems the group part of an emerging political consciousness among Hazara youth.

“We have a window of opportunity,” Shafaq says, “but we are not sure how long it will remain open.”

[..] it is hard for Hazaras like Shafaq to trust this moment. “I would like to see a place where the dreams of young people are attainable,” he says, “where there is a church and a Hindu temple, where other religions can exist. That is the aim of pluralism.”

With Afghans like Musa Shafaq, I feel tremendous solidarity. It won’t be the West or the international community that ultimately saves Afghanistan. It will be the Musa Shafaqs of Afghanistan.  Outsiders can only work to give the leaders of Afghanistan’s dissident and progressive movements the resources, training, and allies they need to stay alive and, slowly, become social counterweights to extremism and cronyism.

If, against all odds, they are still working for and believing in a better future, we have no excuse for not believing in them.


Afghanistan rationale: part 1

I can’t stop thinking about the article about the innocent Afghan women and girls serving multi-decade prison sentences with little hope of release. I’ll remember the details at some random moment, like walking home from class or on the bus to work, and it triggers what I can best describe as a child’s sense of outrage –the kind of outrage that is not couched in nuanced intellectual arguments. That’s just so incredibly and totally wrong, I think, and find myself balling up my fists or biting my lip.

I don’t often view things in moral absolutes of right and wrong, but, with this, I absolutely do. Oh, I really, really do.

It’s the fifteen year old girl serving a twenty-year prison sentence that my mind drifts to during my Post-Communist Politics class, as my classmates argue about the appeal of communism to the Chinese peasantry.

I have to go to Afghanistan, I think. I have to go to Afghanistan. I have to go to Afghanistan. I will go to Afghanistan. After I graduate, I will go to Afghanistan.

It is this thought that distracts me. It intrudes when I’m trying to pay attention as my professors lecture on the political economy of terrorism or why American political culture places so much emphasis on winning. When my classmates are giddily discussing game theory, I find myself glancing at the clock. I used to love this stuff. It used to thrill me, but now the thrill is gone. Abstracts don’t move me anymore, and theory interests me only to the extent that I can turn it into something tangible.

I’m not going to be an academic, I’m going to work in places like, well, Afghanistan. Teach me how to empower idealistic young journalists in the face of a violent and corrupt government that would like nothing more than to see them permanently silenced. Teach me how to interview victims of human rights violations. Teach me what to say to a fifteen year old girl who is, for the “crime” of pre-marital sex, serving a prison sentence that would be deemed long for murder in much of Europe.

But, I know these aren’t things I can learn in a classroom. I’ll have to learn by facing them in real life, and I plan to.

Something decidedly illiberal this way comes

First the police and FBI began raids of houses occupied by peaceful would-be protesters and activist groups. Then the crackdown on legal aid and media advocacy NGOs began. And now even Amy Goodman has been hauled away in handcuffs.

Here’s the video.