Showing posts with label Afghan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghan. Show all posts

Jun 7, 2016

Sultana's Story And Her Educational Aspiration

If you haven't yet read this week's incredible about Sultana on the New York Time, a young girl living in southern Afghanistan who dreams to study in the United States, I highly recommend to read it. Sultana is definitely in of some attention for her future. If you want to donate money towards her education, there is a page made for her in which money goes directly into her account.
Sultana at her desk, photo already published on the NYT.

Like Sultana, there are thousands of girls in areas under the Taliban control who can't go to school. It is unfortunate that Sultana and girls like her are forbidden to go to school, but there is always an incorrect perception that deludes our understanding of the nature of south, where Sultana comes from. ( It is not known where exactly she comes from. The impression that I have from the photos that she has provided to her supporters is that she lives in city).
Most of often people think that the Taliban are foreigners, they come across the boarders from Pakistan, while this might be true to some degree, it belies the sympathizing nature for the Taliban in the southern Afghanistan - mainly in Pashtun areas. Those that hold this kind view that the Taliban are not Afghans, they are either proponent of Ashraf Ghani and Krazai who have been calling the Taliban 'brothers' or they are those that are influenced by misconceptions on the nature of Afghan war and politics. If the Taliban would not have sympathizers among the people in the south, Afghanistan would be much safer today and girls like Sultana would be able to freely attend school.

I am also a little bit doubtful about the story of Sultana. It seems that exaggeration is a fun thing - especially that she is intrigued by dark matter and she aspires to solve its mystery - and Kristof has used it well in his article, though he states that he can't verify everything Sultana says. I hope everything is written there turns out real. There are many girls like Sultana who needs support, but not all can make their stories so theatrical to get American readers' attention. Let's wish her all the best.

Also, you can listen to Sultana's Skype short interview (pull the bar to the end of the program, the interview starts at 36.40) with her friend Emily Roberts, a student at the University of Iowa. 

Sep 7, 2015

Biases against the word "Afghan"

On Sept 5, 2015, a group of Pashtun protested against non-Pashtuns who don't want the word 'Afghan' to be printed in their new IDs. This banner in Pashto says: "If you are not Afghan, go out of my country."

The distribution of biometric ID card which was planned to be occurred this month is delayed again. The initial plan for issuing new IDs was set for 2014, but for some reasons, Ashraf Ghani’s government decided to postpone it again.

One of the most debated issues among Afghans has been the usage of the word “Afghan.” Non-Pashtuns have bitterly reacted towards government's decision for printing the word “Afghan” next to their names. Not all people in Afghanistan are Afghan, and it is not this fact per se that is problematic, there are some other issues involved as well.

According to Encyclopedia Iranica, the word Afghan is only used to people who speak Pashto and and ethnically Pashtuns. 
From a more limited, ethnological point of view, “Afḡān” is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paṧtō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paṧtūn. The equation Afghans = Paṧtūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paṧtūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.
Whenever we hear that some ethnic groups in Afghanistan have problem to be labeled as Afghan, it should not surprise us. It is a name for a particular ethnic group, not a name for all people living in modern geography called Afghanistan. There are a lot of biases against the word “Afghan” among non-Pashtuns. Here I’m going to explain some of them.

The label "Afghan" is imposed by Farsi speakers of Afghanistan on Pashtuns, but the Farsi speakers hate to be labeled as Afghan themselves. In Farsi language, the word "Afghan" literally means whining, wailing, and bawling. The word also carries some negative connotations among non-Pashtuns. For instance, among Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks, the word "Afghan" is metaphorically used to denote backwardness, uneducated, savage, and untrustworthy. Among ethnic Hazara, "Afghan" attains its meaning through a semantic shift as awgho. It is often used in the households to scare the children for obedience. For Hazaras, awgho evokes unpleasant memories, such as genocide, mass atrocities, and enslavement.  One of the most common scare tactics to get children to obey is to say "awgho is coming." Awgho is portrayed as a monstrous being that viciously kill and destroy everything. Historically, Hazaras have suffered at the hands of Pashtuns, and in their literature, Pashtuns are psychologically portrayed as evil and oppressor. This kind of portrayal has also shared among Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmen.

For example, in northern Afghanistan among non-Pashtuns, the word "Afghan" has also experienced a semantic change, which has become "awghan," and both metonymically and metaphorically used as a swear word to shame someone for wrong doing and in contemptuous way it means representing someone as an object of ridicule.

While all citizens of Afghanistan are identified as Afghan outside the country, inside, they go by their ethnic identity, such as Afghans (Pashtun), Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. During his presidential campaign, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi, deliberately and repeatedly used "Afghan" in order to unite all people under one identity: Afghan. Many people gratified his efforts, however, non-Pashtuns became skeptic and alerted for losing their ethnic identity by simply being called Afghans. The skepticism towards Ashraf Ghani's intention further aggravated when he refrained calling ethnicities' names during his campaign among non-Pashtuns.

No matter how great the idea was but the plan of issuing a new ID and calling all citizens as Afghan seems to be failed now. Ghani's ambitious program for nationalization and bringing unity is turning into an illusion. Nowadays, Ghani is limping on his right foot (his left foot is broken), it can be metaphorically exemplified his failure for not being able to fulfill his promises. Just for a final note, Ghani's failure could be also seen from a recent pool that shows his performance has plummeted and his popularity has dropped to less than 20 percent.

To understand how much the word Afghan has been controversial and has affected the current political climate of Afghanistan, read this article.

Oct 2, 2011

In Afghanistan, 'A Generation of Hope and Change'

In some countries, young people have led in bringing change. In 2010, in Egypt and Tunisia, they toppled the government; in Iran, they have become the biggest and longest threat to the theocratic regime. In Iran, over 60 percent of 75 the million people in the country are under 30 years old. In Afghanistan, according to a United Nations report in 2008, 68 percent are under 25 years of age.

Traditionally, Afghan youth as a group have been quiet and never caused trouble. That may be changing. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings that spilled over to many other Arab countries have also inspired the Afghan youth.

Facebook and Twitter played a critical role in the Arab spring. Many Afghan young people were following the news of Arab uprisings carefully, and as regimes collapsed one after another, dozens of Facebook pages have sprung up calling for change in Afghanistan. A Facebook page like Love Afghanistan encourages Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek to unite. A similar page called "I love my glorious Afghanistan" promotes patriotism among its 9,000 members. The members debate questions like “when are we going to learn that unity is the only weapon to vanquish our enemies and is the best tool to make a better future for our Afghanistan?” Continue reading on the Nieman Watchdog...

Jan 20, 2011

Afghan journalist attacked with acid

Let me begin by saying this that Afghanistan is not a safe place for journalists, writers and bloggers. If you think you are safe you must be either supported by the government or some Islamic radical factions otherwise you are on your own and always exposed to different kinds of dangers.

Just a few days ago I heard Razaq Mamoon was attacked by an unknown assailant who sprayed acid on his face. I worked with him for a year; I was astonished by his capability and talent. He is not simply a journalist; he is a novelist and a great playwright. In his interview with the media, he accused Iranian intelligence service has hand in the assault. He has been criticizing Iran over a number of issues. Recently, he wrote a book about Ahmad Shah Massoud’s assassination, he claimed in his book that Iran was involved Massoud’s killing.

Karzai condemned the attacked and asked promised that his government will investigate the case. I’m having doubt that Karzai have a memory. When Samad Rohani, the BBC reporter was killed in 2008, in Helmand, he published the same statement and even made a committee to investigate Abdul Samad Rohani’s murder. Going back to 2007, in a span of just one week, two female journalists have been killed. President Karzai told to media the same words that repeated just yesterday in Mamoon’s case.

May 30, 2010

I became the grand prize winner

I want to express appreciation to all who supported me and voted for photos in the contest. The photo contest which is called "Why Afghanistan Matters" was launched last year by NATO. According to their website, there were 451 photos submitted from 57 contestants in 15 countries. The goal of this contest was to show Afghanistan to the world through the lens that why Afghanistan matters. There were four categories: Beautiful Afghanistan, people of Afghanistan, ANSF in action and ISAF in action.

I entered into three categories with six pictures. This was a unique opportunity for me to show a different picture of my country to the world, the pictures of beautiful nature of Afghanistan and its people that rarely shown to the world. I became the grand prize winner with a photo from Mazar-e Sharif in which a family is feeding pigeons considered to be sacred.

Finally, thanks to NATO and organizers who came up with this great idea that allowed me to be parts of showing why Afghanistan matters.

I will continue to work hard and take pictures of issues which lie ahead.

May 5, 2010

Honor Gang Rape

We often hear of “honor killing” in the mass media, a practice that exists in some Muslim countries including Afghanistan. An honor killing is the murder of a family or clan member in which the perpetrators are motivated by a belief that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family, clan or community. A comparable, yet less widely publicized form of honour punishment, is gang rape. While honor gang rapes are usually carried out against women, an incident that took place two weeks in Northern Afghanistan involved the gang rape of two young men.

According to a local report, a dozen farmers and shepherds raped two young men as a punishment for engaging in sexual relations with two young women. The incident occured in the Dasht-e Laili (Laili desert) of Jawzjan province, an area famed for being the site of a Taliban massacre in the aftermath of September 11. Both young men are related to high-ranking government officials, one being the son of the provincial governor and the other the son of a police chief. Prior to the rape the two young men were disarmed and saw their belongings, including a few thousand US dollars, confiscated by the farmers and shepherds. The perpetrators of the rape explained that the punishment was meted out as an act of revenge for the sexual acts undertaken by the young men. Continue reading...

Mar 22, 2010

It's a new year in Afghanistan

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This year, the Nowruz festival holds even more significance and importance in the lives of Afghans since the United Nation’s General Assembly recognized March 21 as International Day of Nowruz.

Nowruz, banned under Taliban rule, begins on the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring) and marks the beginning of the new year. Every year, three days before Nowruz, tens of thousands of people travel to the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif to watch the elaborate ceremony.

Nowruz is celebrated for two weeks throughout Afghanistan. People wear new clothes, refurbish their house, paint the buildings and henna their hands. Young girls go with their mothers to holy shrines and pray to have a good future, a good life and a good husband and be fortunate while the boys have an eye on their parents to decide who is fair and suitable for him. Continued on...

Feb 19, 2010

Warlord Carries out Brutal Public Flogging in Ghor Province

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Do you remember last year in April 2009, the Guardian published a video of a 17-year-old girl's flogging by the Taliban in Swat Valley? Another incident just happened a few days ago in Dolina district in Ghor province, central Afghanistan. Ghor is one of the poorest provinces in central Afghanistan, and Dolina district has been a safe haven for illegal armed groups, which have committed these kinds of brutal acts before. The video, released on February 18, shows a man with a white turban flogging a woman who is submissively standing against 40 lashes. Continue reading...

Jan 28, 2010

A Nightmare Scenario for The London Conference

The London Conference will be held today -- Thursday, January 28, 2010. At this conference, the international community is coming together to fully align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy. It is a crucial moment for the Afghan government, which still has not fielded a full cabinet, after many of President Karzai’s second set of cabinet picks were rejected by the Afghan parliament just two weeks ago. This is not the only conundrum that Karzai is grappling with – he is also facing intense criticism from civil society NGOs inside Afghanistan who are advocating for women’s rights. Continue reading...

Jan 6, 2010

The profiling issue from an Afghan traveling to the U.S.

Note: Already published on CNN

After the unsuccessful terror attack on an American jetliner by suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, a 23 year-old Nigerian, security at international airports is getting tighter. In the days after the incident, President Obama vowed to “disrupt and dismantle” every possible threat against the U.S. and ordered enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. These measures are smart, but they increase the concerns for those travelers who might be suspected by their nationality or religion.

Last week, a viewer called into CNN, to say that anyone who has a Muslim name should not be allowed to fly into the U.S. I have been profiled just because I am coming from Afghanistan, have a Muslim name and identify myself as an Afghan. I personally believe that judging travelers on their ethnicity and religion is not fair. Psychologically, it is disturbing and annoying to be interrogated just because of your nationality. Instead, the security should be reformed and new technology should be developed and used to determine who is actually dangerous.

After the recent incident, there is much discussion in the media about profiling, security screening and issuing special security checks for people coming from mostly Muslim countries. The new order for an extra security check for bag and pat down includes 14 countries. Afghanistan is one of them.

I personally feel comfortable with any kind of security measures that take place at the airports, and I do not find it offensive even to be strip-searched as long as security is the reason. I am from Afghanistan, and I have always experienced tight security at international airports and it doesn’t bother me. But the only thing that concerns me is profiling. As an Afghan, I have faced lots of difficulties at international airports. The security personnel at the airports asked me questions I have never heard, and inquired repeatedly about my destination.

For example, this past August when I got my visa from the U.S. embassy in Kabul to come to the U.S. to attend college, I was stopped at the Dubai airport and questioned more than ever before even though I have traveled to the U.S. before. The security at Dubai international airport was not honestly to check my bags but instead the security worker interrogated me about what I have been doing all my life, questioning me as if I were a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban. Even though I had already passed through security, my bags had been checked and the security personal had stuck a special security sticker on my passport - the security personnel didn’t let me on board while I was in line. He kept me until all passengers were boarded. While he was holding my passport in his hand, he moved around and finally found a camera and a scanner to take my picture and scan my passport. I got on the plane only five minutes before the boarding gate closed. It made me upset and annoyed just because I was profiled based on my nationality. The effect didn’t leave me until I reached my destination.

It is true that most of terrorist attacks have targeted Westerners, and that most terrorists are Muslim. But it is bigoted to judge people according to their religion or nationality. Such extreme measures would be profiling people based on their race, not evaluating them as individuals.

Since September 11, 2001, the security at airports has been effective enough to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, but the case of AbdulMutallab proved that the U.S. intelligence was not capable or failed to conduct a pre-emptive action.

Thus, as the U.S. admitted that its security failed to prevent the Christmas Day attack, al Qaeda has proven itself to not be confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that it is also in Gulf countries like Yemen. The security was not smart enough to track down a 23-year-old man wandering around and boarding at an Amsterdam airport.

It is good to have to be checked to ensure security but it is devastating to be treated and interrogated the same manner as a suspected person, just because I am sharing the same type nationality. In August 2007, a 7-year-old Muslim boy was stopped in the U.S. three times on suspicion of being a terrorist. Also, in August 2009, the Bollywood star, Shahrukh Khan, was stopped for questioning at Newark Liberty International Airport which enraged his fans in India.

Finally, it would be good to investigate and recognize the suspected person before issuing him/her a visa and before traveling to the United States. Profiling is wholly inappropriate and will enrage people who are innocent. Looking for Muslim names and names similar to al Qaeda members that are blacklisted is not smart. Profiling based on nationality breeds anger only. Instead there should be effective and aggressive plans to track down the threats from those who are truly dangerous.

Please go to CNN crossroad blog page and read the critics at the bottom of this post

Aug 1, 2009

Eager to Learn About the World, Tech Savvy Afghans Turn to Blogs

Note that this article was first published in the America.gov (direct link of this interview)and if you reproduce this article you must retain this notice.

Afghan blogger teaches others his craft
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By Jane Morse
Staff Writer

Washington — Tech-savvy Afghans increasingly are turning to blogs for information about their country and the world. They also use blogs as a platform for telling their stories about Afghanistan to the world, says Nasim Fekrat, one of Afghanistan’s trailblazing bloggers.

Although Internet penetration is not high in Afghanistan compared with other countries, since 2002, some 20,000 Afghans have started blogging, Fekrat told America.gov. Fekrat, who blogs under the moniker “Afghan Lord,” estimates that at least 1 million Afghans access the Internet through Internet cafes and at local schools and universities.

Fekrat discovered blogs in 2000, when only two Afghan expatriates — one in Canada and one in the United States — were blogging in Farsi. He e-mailed them requesting more information and then taught himself how to use the medium. In late 2002, he launched his first blogs featuring his poetry and discussions of classical music. Later, he included discussions about events in Afghanistan as well as philosophical issues.

In 2008, Fekrat taught blogging workshops in Kabul and Bamyan. Approximately 40 people attended the three-day workshops. They shared 10 computers Fekrat was able to rent with funds he raised from donors over the Internet. He hopes to raise enough money to repeat the classes again this year, sharing what he learned during his recently completed three-month fellowship at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University in North Carolina.

Barack Obama’s deft use of Internet tools to send his message to voters, raise money and ultimately win the U.S. presidential elections profoundly impressed Fekrat. “This can be a model, a lesson to Afghanistan for presidential elections which are coming in a few months,” he said.

Afghanistan’s presidential elections are set for August 20. According to NATO officials, nearly 16 million voters have registered to vote — about half the country’s population.

That an African American won the U.S. presidential elections is “a big lesson” for Afghans,” Fekrat said. Afghans, he said, “should build up the determination to end inequality and hatred toward each other.”

“When I go back [to Afghanistan],” Fekrat said, “I will tell [my blogging students] about the media and morality. I’ll tell them how we can’t have exactly the same thing [as in the United States]; but with what we’re able to learn, to transform in [an] Afghan way; not in a very traditional way.

“We can change,” he said. “We can bring a picture of different models of Afghanistan.”

Many Afghans never learned about democracy, according to Fekrat. “Rather they heard communism, socialism, equality, Marxism, those ideas based on Marxist theory.” Compounding the problem, he said, is widespread illiteracy. “Those people, who never heard democracy, freedom, freedom of speech and human rights … they have to have an idea, a description of democracy that they never had,” he said.

“The meaning of democracy was not transformed in the context of Afghan meaning, Afghan knowledge, Afghan language,” he said. For many of the uneducated people, he said, democracy means little more than women discarding their head scarves.

AFGHANISTAN’S NEW GENERATION: GENERATING CHANGE

“The new generation is not the generation of Taliban,” Fekrat said. “The new generation — they are simply about learning. … They want to connect themselves to the world.”

Blogging and the Internet won’t reach Afghanistan’s illiterate poor, and Afghan society, Fekrat acknowledged, is highly controlled by tradition, religion, differing tribal customs and fear of retribution. Even so, there is a core population of young people interested in change, according to Fekrat.

Afghans who blog enjoy a lively forum for discussion, Fekrat said. “They’re talking about elections, presidential elections. Hundreds of articles are published in Web sites. There is debate among them. They’re discussing the issues,” he said.

“I’m sure there are lots of misunderstandings, misconceptions and biased information from Afghanistan,” Fekrat said. If given the proper tools, young Afghans could provide a more accurate picture of their country, Fekrat said.

Although Fekrat blogs in both English and Farsi, the vast majority of Afghans blog in Farsi. But Fekrat would like to see the viewpoints of the Afghan people reach a wider non-Farsi speaking audience. His plan is to teach Afghans to do video interviews and podcast interviews with subtitles in English. Once again, he’s hoping to raise the funds for the video camcorders by soliciting donations online.

“You can find lots of Nasims like me in Afghanistan; lots of people will contact you and talk to you. You can learn a lot from Afghan society,” Fekrat said.

For more, see Fekrat’s Web sites in Farsi and English.

Dec 25, 2008

The Fight of Nasim Fekrat in Afghanistan

This post is written Philippe R. in Courrier International, you can read this in original version in French language. My friend Jean-Baptiste Perrin translated into English.
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With his personal blog Afghan Lord, Nasim Fekrat, 25, is a real fighter. His country Afghanistan has been on the front page of Western and foreign media for so many years, at the heart of what is called "the fight against international terrorism." In Kabul, Nasim fights too. With his own weapons and for a cause much braver and more difficult: freedom of expression.

Nasim Fekrat is an Afghan journalist, internationally recognized for his blog Afghan Lord that exists in English and Farsi. In 2005 already, Reporters Without Borders has awarded him its first prize to reward his work, his courage, his commitment. Afghan Lord is currently competing for the best South Asia blog 2008 awarded by the Brass Crescent Awards, oriented towards the Muslim world's blogosphere. Most recently, Nasim Fekrat won the 2008 Information Safety Freedom (ISF), received in Siena in Italy.

Nasim Fekrat has more than deserved his "trophies" of defender of the freedom of expression. This very freedom, he conquered it thanks to the Internet. He is an Afghan proselyte for blogging: he created the Afghan Press online journal and founded the Association of Afghan bloggers. Both in two versions, English and Farsi.

In its latest post dated December 14, Nasim Fekrat explains better than anyone why he won the 2008 ISF prize, as a militant for an Afghanistan open to the outside world.

"Digital Afghanistan was in my plan to foster an interest in digital media among young people in the Universities, schools, institutes and journalists. Digital Afghanistan was very important for me because I believe this is the only way we can tell our story to the world. Presenting Afghanistan through digital world is a job for new generation, not for those were involved in war, for those who were involved in massacres, those who plant opium but this the new generation that can tell to the world the reality what they believe and streaming in their live daily. They are the sources of truth and honest, they are tired of war, they are not the generation of suicide anymore."

Nasim Fekrat was awarded the ISF prize jointly with Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, an Afghan boy whose death sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison. His crime? Having read an article on the Internet.

Nov 25, 2008

Drug Addiction in Afghanistan

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A young man who was repatriated from Turkey while he was intend to cross the border to reach Europe. After spending several months in prison in Turkey he repatriated to Iran border and Iranian police border caught him and put him jail. After 6 months he repatriated to Afghanistan. He became addicted in Iran and now he is in Russian Cultural Palace among hundreds of other addicts who wriggling with their wounded bodies in the darkness of corridors. These addicts who are staying inside the Russian Cultural Palace told that they became addict while they were in Iran and working.

According to the most recent UN figures in 2005, there are about one million addicts in a country of about 30 million people, one in 30 Afghans are addicts.

Nov 3, 2008

Afghan National Army

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This is the picture of our young people, our noble children. I am proud of them, two days working with them i believe they are so strong to stand up against enemy, against Taliban and strangers who are against our nation. I am so glad and proud today to see the National Army of Afghanistan getting so strong. Before Mujaheddin and starting civil war, Afghanistan had the most powerful Army. This is was a threat to neighboring countries. As i see and the interests among people who are joining to army day by day i am sure that they will be strong again.

Nov 1, 2008

Blogging for Afghanistan

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From The Guardianweekly

Despite decades of civil war, marauding Taliban and deadly military air strikes, Afghans have experienced some changes for the better over recent years. Health facilities, schools and roads have improved, and a fledgling media industry is finding its feet. Bloggers are off to a fast start, with Nasim Fekrat, also known as Afghan Lord, leading the way. This 25-year-old ethnic Hazara knows all too well the dangers of self-expression, but believes freedom of speech is vital if Afghanistan is to leave its bloody past behind.

Friday October 17th 2008

Lead article photo

Signs of change are visible across Afghanistan. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

When I was 11 years old my father pushed me to pray and I would not pray. One night my father raised his hands to the sky and said: "Please god, take Nasim. Kill him, take him back – I don't want him." He did this in front of me and my siblings and nobody said anything. That evening I couldn't sleep. I was thinking death would come right at that moment. I was so scared, thinking god would come to take me soon, that I kept moving my hands and legs to make sure I wasn't dead.

My mother was kind to me. After my father kicked me out of our house she gave me blankets and told me: "I can't help you, your father is very stubborn, but go to the roof and sleep there." Eventually I left and went to Kabul where a local family took me in. All I did after that was read books.

When I created my first blog I used a pseudonym – I wanted to escape my identity and to be neutral. I told people I was born in Afghanistan but that was it. I didn't want to be seen as one type of person or another. Now in my writing it's no secret: people know I'm Hazara.

In Afghanistan, when you write your opinion in the public sphere, you are labelled a racist. I've been receiving a lot of threats. Someone by the name of Coffin posted on my blog, saying "Soon I will find you", and I also received an email that said "Your days are numbered". People approach me from aid organisations that don't exist. But I've been dealing with this since 2004 when the police shut down the satirical magazine I had started, so these sorts of things are very normal for me now.

Our life, or our society, is completely different from in the west. I told my friends that as long as you have bread to eat here in Afghanistan, don't go to Europe; in Europe we are not treated as human beings. Our looks are different, our ways different. It takes a long time to match with them, to understand. When I went to Hamburg I asked two German people for directions and they completely ignored me; they turned and walked away. So I tell my friends, if you want to go to Europe, fine, just visit for a little while and come back.

Newspaper media is very new in our society. There were just one or two newspapers up until the Soviet era, which were only propaganda for political parties. At that time freedom of speech had little meaning. Now, with people coming back from Iran and other countries, Afghans are more educated, they are more interested in news and in reading. We now have more than 20 daily papers and 100 weeklies.

I don't read Afghan newspapers; most of them are not independent. They are biased towards a specific political party or organisation, or whichever donor is giving them money. We don't have a situation here in which very few people earn enough money to publish a newspaper.

All that I write is with a view to making an Afghan thinktank. I want to bring independent thinkers together who can talk about Afghanistan in a different way. I don't want a repeat of our history of massacres and tragedy. This has become my mission.

One thing I still don't know is how to deal with the past. Afghan history is full of genocide and bloodletting – and we still have warlords wielding power. So writing about the past, dealing with it, is kind of taboo in this society. It doesn't matter who you are – if you are Pashtun, Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik – whatever you write, somebody will attack you. People think we should just forget the past.

Nowadays when I see my father I kiss his hands, but he is not happy with me. He regrets what he asked god for, to take me. I can read that in his eyes. But I forgive him. Because at that moment I decided I wanted to be a man for myself, not for my father. It made me very strong and able to take care of myself. In my life, whatever I wished for, I reached out and grabbed it.

• Nasim Fekrat was speaking to David Lepeska.

Jul 1, 2008

The Second Round Blogging of Workshop in Bamyian

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Already published here

Under the auspices of Association of Afghan Blog Writers, the second round on blogging workshop was held for tens of Afghan journalists and writers in ancient city of Bamian. This workshop was underway from June, 12 to June, 15. First workshop of this series was previously held by the Association of Afghan Blog Writers in Kabul for journalists, university faculties, students and teachers.

Two western and three Afghan teachers participated in the latest round of blogging workshops. Mr. Martin (German journalist) who was supposed to teach in the first day of workshop, unfortunately failed to do so due to an illness. In the second day, first hours were dedicated to theoretical issues, in which Mr. Jeffrey Estern (young American journalist) approached weblog phenomenon from a western and modern-world perspective. Mr. Jeffrey compared visual and print media with blogging and evaluated the influence of blogging on public opinions, politics and other media, and said: “In our country, i.e. United States, along with three constitutional powers, Media is the fourth power which monitors activities of government. However, there was no body to supervise the media. After years and with the introduction of technology and internet, Weblog came into existence. Today, weblogs supervise the media, so that there have been several cases in which bloggers revealed misinformation of some prominent journalists who were consequently fired from their positions.”

After some theoretical discussions, the rest of the second day was dedicated to practical issues. According to directors, main goal of such workshops is to turn this new phenomenon into a public one so as to ensure that everybody practices the right of free speech with no censorship. Since increasing pressures of Information and Culture Ministry has led to more censorship by e-media and private TV channels, weblog may be a better choice to experience free speech as well as institutionalizing this principle in the Afghan society.

This was the second blogging workshop held in Afghanistan, and Association of Afghan Blog Writers is supposed to run similar workshops in other cities such as Herat, Mazar- Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandehar, Bamyian and Daikundi.

Blogging is an absolutely new phenomenon in Afghanistan and most of the people do not take it professionally. Therefore, such workshops directed by Association of Afghan Blog Writers may speed up the process of professionalization and facilitate it for Afghan bloggers. Today most of the youth and students have turned to this phenomenon. Though having access to internet is very problematic, the Afghan youth increasingly turn to weblog and blogging, and the number of Afghan weblogs is increasing. Up to now, more than 20,000 Afghan weblogs have been registered by Afghan people in various countries and through various blog service providers, such as Blogger, wordpress, Blogfa, Persianblog.

Barriers to the Way of Afghan Bloggers

Afghan bloggers have to deal with a wide range of problems. Due to recent controversies over Dari (Farsi) and after two correspondents in Mazar-e Sharif were sacked just for using Dari equivalents of ‘University’ and ‘Student’, Afghan Telecom has blocked two popular Persian blogger sites: Persianblog and Blogfa. Some believe that such acts are the continuation of fight of Abdul Karim Khoram(minister of Information and Culture) against Dari Persian.

On the other hand, there is the problem of power shortage. In spite of Hamid Karzai ruling for several years and presence of International Community in Afghanistan, Kabul inhabitants still do not have access to power. Power is available only 6 hours per day, and suffers fluctuations. This problem may be a big barrier to the way of Afghan bloggers and prevent them from updating their blogs.

Help Promote Free Speech

Directors of the project believe that turning this new phenomenon (i.e. Weblog) into a public issue between Afghan youth and writers can help the free speech and institutionalize democracy in Afghanistan. Today many emerging journals claim ‘independence and being free’, but they are unfortunately so associated with political trends and parties that practically come to experience self-censorship. Very often it happens that they fail to publish critical papers. On the other hand, Afghan journals and media have taken an opposition stance and the only thing they may criticize is the government, while there is a myriad of hot and sensitive issues happening all around Afghanistan neglected by such journals and media. Weblog enables the writer to publish his thoughts and criticisms freely and independently, using either real name or nom de plume.

Jun 9, 2008

Upcoming Blogging Workshop in Bamian

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I am preparing to go to Bamian to launch the second round of the Blogging Workshop. I had a little money left from the previous and first ever workshop in Kabul, which will serve for materials, renting computer lab, internet, transportation and stationary.
I hope this won’t be the last workshop on Blogging, because of financial problems. I appreciate the friends and people who helped us for the last workshop. I hope our friends and people who are really concerned about Afghanistan and digital media, and especially in the blogging spheres will help us.

We are going to bring together young people, journalists, students and people who are interested to blogging, in order to bring changes, in order to give news out of Afghanistan, in order to fight for freedom of speech.
I kindly ask people abroad to donate to us, and help us to fulfill our goals towards freedom of speech. I am sure, the small donations will be used for us to rent internet and a computer lab for teaching Blogging to journalists, students and for new generations who will bring changes for Afghanistan.

The second round of the Blogging workshop will be Thursday, June 12th and will continue for three days. In the last few months I regularly received phone calls from journalists, students, university teachers and people in Bamian who work for NGOs, they were asking me to go there to teach in the Blogging workshop.

I have already announced on behalf of Association of Afghan BlogWriters that those whom are interested to attend the blogging workshop, should start applying for the course. In one day we received 49 applications which were a lot more for us but we accept only 25 of them. So we had to close registration already.

For our Blogging workshop we rented a computer lab with 15 computer connected to internet, therefore we should ask for students to share their computer, otherwise we are out of capacity.
I hope this workshop will run well so we can come closer to fulfill our goal to promote blogging in Afghanistan in order to help digital media and support freedom of speech.

Just this morning I heard that Abdul Samad Rohani, a young journalist who was working for BBC for the last year, was found dead in Helmand. As an independent journalist and blogger I share my feelings and support his family and friends. This is shocking news for Afghan media and freedom of expression, especially for those journalists who work independently.

May 4, 2008

Karzai Rejected the Juvenile Delinquency law

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The current controversy over the Juvenile Delinquency law illustrates the conflicts within the Afghan legal system. The conflicts are rooted in Afghan history itself. "From the 1880's until the 1960's, Afghanistan essentially had a dual judicial system. A system of sharia courts headed by clergy handled areas ... such as criminal law, family and personal law laid down in the sharia. A separate system of government courts handled state law issues, such as those relating to commerce, taxation, and civil servants." In 1964, an Afghan constitution, ratified by the Loya Jirga attempted to bring those threads closer together, but it was ripped apart again in the period of war with the Soviet Union and during the rule of the Taliban.

Following the defeat of the Taliban at the hands of US forces in 2002, an international conference in Bonn stipulated the appointment of a "Judicial Commission" whose role was to "to rebuild the domestic justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law and Afghan legal traditions." That sweeping task proved easier said than done. A Stanford University study described some of the difficulties which arose.

  • Only 10 days after the close of Afghanistan's Constitutional Convention, Afghanistan's Supreme Court violated the word and spirit of Afghanistan's new constitution. Without any case before the court, and based on no existing law, the court declared on January 14, 2004 that a performance by the Afghan pop singer Salma on Kabul television was un-Islamic and therefore illegal. The video featuring the modestly dressed Afghan woman singing about rural life was recorded in the 1970s.
The juvenile delinquency law was already approved by parliament and senate, but didn't get Karzai's approval and was sent back to the parliament for more reforms.

Punishment Ages

The reason for not approving the juvenile delinquency law was because there were differences considering the ages for male and female juvenile delinquents. This law defines the ages for punishment at 18 years for boys and at 17 years for girls. But according to the general Human Rights, those under 18 are called children.

Human Rights organizations praised Karzai's action, but it was opposed by various persons in the opposition, who argue that this law is contrary to the Islamic Sharia Law. Karzai's refraining from approving the juvenile delinquency law was praised by many parliament members who also didn't agree.
Member of Parliament Azita Fafat says that all laws that are approved by the parliament must be in accordance with the constitution of Afghanistan and the international conventions that were already approved by Afghanistan.

Islamic Sharia Law

The members of parliament who approved the juvenile delinquency law, referred to Article 3 in the Constitution which says that a law can not be accepted when opposing the Islamic Sharia law. Irfanullah Irfan, another member of parliament pointed to natural differences between man and woman, and refrained from approving the juvenile delinquency law for a lack of Sharia rules.

The juvenile delinquency law was approved six months before, after which it was sent to the Senate for final approval. The Senate-members approved the law without any changes and sent it to the presidential office. Many lawyers believe the original sources of such disagreements are in the constitutional law because the constitutional text for civil cases is not clear enough.
For this reason anyone can interpret the articles of the constitutional law with special regard to their own interests.

Jun 29, 2007

Afghan

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Jun 11, 2007

Two women journalist killed

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It has happened again, now it’s the second time that two women journalists Shikeba Sanga Amaj and Zakia Zaki were assassinated, within a week. Shikeba was shot anonymously on may 31th in her home. She was the correspondent of Shamshad Private TV. According to her family Shikeba shouted for her mother simultaneously when the gun fired and while her parents were running to her room. They were only in time to be witnesses over the bloody dead body of Shikeba. She was 22 and worked since a year with Shashad private TV channel. She is the second woman journalist killed within two years.

Just five days later another journalist, Zakia Zaki, a very effective reporter and journalist trainer in private Radio Solh (Peace Radio) channel based in Parwan province was killed in her bed. She had started with her work eight years ago in a region which was out of the Taliban control. She was a very active women journalist, known in the country and she had her critics always against injustice, criminals and Mujahideen.
Just four days later after Shikba’s death, six men who committed the assassination were arrested. The police security chief pointed out that these six men are involved in Hezbe Islami Hekmatiar party.

The reason why the two women journalists were killed still remain unknown. It is almost two years agoo, since Shaima Rezaie, another female private Tolo TV channel reporter had been killed in her home anonymously, in May 2005. And it is still unknown why she was killed. It always happens that people do not agree that women work in society. Afghanistan is very complicated and very traditional.

Women have a very limited space for development and for working side by side with men. Afghan men always believe women should stay at home; the men feed them and let them go out. Many others believe that the current situation is too traditional and not ready for women to work in media. Many Afghan men believe their traditions don’t allow them to let their women work outside; they honor to have them at home, rather than have them being active in the Afghan society.