“I learned in CSRHN not only human rights skills but I also learnt how to exercise them”

Translation of an interview per skype with Azaryuon Matin, the coordinator of the transitional justice program in Afghanistan. By Gul Bashra Ahmad.

 Question: You worked for a long time for human rights in Afghanistan. It seems that human rights are a broad phenomena under the blue sky. Before, you used to work for CSHRN, at present you work for an international organization. How do you explain that human rights are a world wide phenomena?

Discuss10-4Azaryuon Matin: While writing the answers to your questions, I sit in New York in a hotel far from the city centre. Besides me, there are around one hundred colleagues from all around the world, who stay equally in this hotel. They are here for the purpose of education in human rights, but all have different colors, races, languages, religions, and places of origins. Nevertheless, one thing brings all of them together and these are human rights. They came here to learn, and then they go back and implement human rights. This shows the universality of human rights.

Question: Please tell us about your lessons learnt and experiences gained from CSHRN and tell us why you decided to start to work for the International Centre on Transitional Justice?

Azaryuon Matin: I have worked with CSHRN since its establishment, and even before that. In 2004, when CSRHN was founded, I was appointed as a coordinator and I worked in this function until 2008.The experiences and the lessons I learnt regarding formal as well as informal knowledge I will never forget in my life. I would like to be honest and straight forward and tell you that the network has been the main source for developing my technical knowledge as well as my knowledge regarding implementation. I learned in CSRHN not only human rights skills but I also learnt how to exercise these rights.

I learned that in order to respect the human rights of other persons, you need to know your own rights and to exercise them. The development of my professional personality has started while I was working in CSHRN and it made me the person, I am today. My colleagues were kind, constructive and very helpful and because of that, the environment in CSHRN was very interesting for me. But why have I decided to work for transitional justice? The vision of CSHRN is a society based on democracy and the rule of law. As a citizen of Afghanistan , this is also my vision. I would like to work in any place where such a vision exists. In a country like Afghanistan , which is in a state of transition, and where experiences of war should be exchanged for experiences of peace, I think transitional justice is one of the main preconditions for peace. I worked four years for CSHRN. I thought that somebody could replace me in order to give me a chance to work for this purpose with another organization. The decision was a democratic one. I left CSHRN with the support of my colleagues in the secretariat and the steering committee. I think, transitional justice should be closely linked with the strengthening of civil society and equally with the work of media and the human rights movement. I believe transitional justice is the first step in state building and strengthening the rule of law.

Question: This year the world celebrates the 60th .anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When we talk about human rights, what comes first into your mind?

Azaryuon Matin: My short answer to this will be ‘humanity. Human beings should live without any discrimination because of color, race, language, religion ethnicity, and so on and they should have one dignity, which his humanity. When I talk about the universality of human rights, I mean that this blue sky umbrella should be there for all humanity.

Question: What are the main challenges for human rights in Afghanistan? Why are human rights misused in Afghanistan by politicians?

Azaryuon Matin: The main challenge is the misinterpretation of religion. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, the values of Islam are used as a tool for governing the Afghan people instead of using them for a better understanding of human rights values.

Question: You are a young talented person and have experienced a lot of successes in your life. What are your recommendations for the young readers?

Azaryuon Matin: I have two reasons for my achievements: the first one is that I have a family which respects pluralism. From my childhood on, I had the opportunity to make use of my right to make my own choice and I really exercised this right. My mother, my father, my sister and my brothers did not tell me how I should think or how I should not think. On the contrary, they gave me a lot of freedom. The second reason is that I got the opportunity to work with CSHRN. I gained a great deal of experience, I learned many skills from skillful experts and I benefited from a very good working environment. In this environment we really experienced democracy. We got a lot of opportunities to develop ourselves, to criticize each other, to respect each other and to understand each other. These are the two main reasons for my successes.

Question: Tell us about your taste. You are a poet. How do you live with your poems, how do you mix the reality of human rights with the romantics of poetry?

Azaryuon Matin: I try to live with my fantasy in my mind but in my daily life I would like to be a realistic person. My fantasy has never disturbed a realistic approach to my surrounding.

Question: Are you married, how is your private life. Mandela says that human rights start from breakfast. When do human rights start for you?

Azaryuon Matin: I am not married, but I am engaged. My life is full of love and respect. In relationship with a saying of Mandela, I would like to tell a short story. I enjoy cooking and I clean my cloths myself, but when my mother is with me, she does all these things. One day she asked me, why I never do these things myself when my mother is here. I answered because the rights of men and women are equal and when I will get married I will help my wife. My mother was joking with me: You think I am not a woman? Why do you not help me? I made a joke with my mother that these rights only exist between wife and husband. The respect for human rights respect will start once I am married.

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