Interview with the CSHRN regional coordinators

Written by Frozan Darwish
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10. December 2008, the officer of the CSRHN resource center, Mrs. Frozan Darwish, invited the regional coordinators of CSHRN to a roundtable discussion. The aim of this round table was to discuss together about the human rights situation in the different regions and the activities carried out by CSHRN.

Interview with the regional coordinator of the east

Discuss12-04-2Following is the part of the interview with the coordinator of the eastern region.

Doctor Niamatullah Hamdard, the CSRHN coordinator in the eastern region and a very active personality in the fields of human rights, was one of the participants.

Doctor Hamdard has been working since seven years for civil society and since two years he is part of the staff of the network. He has a lot of experience in working with civil society and he enjoyed being involved in the setting up of CSHRN. He is married and lives with his family in the beautiful city of Nangarhar, where he also works.

F. Darwish: Doctor Hamdard, you are a respected personality in Nangarhar province. In the recent interview with a local television, however, you criticized the role of the government and you also pointed out the weak position of civil society. Is this correct?

Discuss12-04-6Dr. Hamdard: Yes, I had an interview with lamar television in Kabul on the 14. October 2008 and I wanted to transmit the difficulties of the people living in the eastern region, so that it would be heard by the persons working with the government and that the government, who is responsible for the security of the population, would take the necessary measures.

Before CSHRN started to work in the eastern region, the population as well as the representatives of the authorities did not understand correctly the role of civil society. Therefore, work was a bit difficult at the beginning. However, thanks to capacity building programs about the role of civil society, it became clearer and some activities could be carried out. The cooperation began to expand and for example on 30. October 2008 a meeting was held with fifteen representatives from civil society and human rights organizations and the joint election management body for the election in Nangarhar province. The aim of the meeting was to support transparent and peaceful elections and to share advice, awareness and cooperation during the election process.

CSHRN informed the joint election management body that they would work on improving the capacities of the citizens so that they could make informed choices.

F. Darwish: Dear friend, lets talk a few words about your personal life, what kind of leisure do you like?

Dr. Hamdard: I graduated in 1985 from Nangarhar University as a Medical Doctor and I worked for 23 years in different jobs in administrations in the governmental, non governmental, national and international sector in Afghanistan. From 2000 until now, I have been active in the field of human rights. In December 2006, I also participated in an international conference outside of Afghanistan.

F. Darwish: Doctor Hamdard, what is the biggest problem concerning human rights in the eastern provinces of the country?

Dr. Hamdard: I would like to express my regret that the government does not recognize the valuable role CSHRN can play and has never done so. People live under very difficult conditions, the lack of economical security and confidence for the future are major problems, civil society is faced with.

People are subjected to many kinds of violations of human rights and security and the situation in the provinces has become very bad. So the population in this area is confronted with many problems.

Another challenge for the respect of human rights is the high level of corruption and the seizure of properties. Persons arrested in relation to this kind of offenses are in general released very quickly.

Additionally, the appointment of persons into state institutions and provincial councils is mostly based upon family, tribal, ethnical and political relations. Therefore, the positions are not filled with people who dispose of the necessary intellectual and educational capacities. In spite of frequent complaints by civil society, the government did not react and improve the situation.

The government does not fulfill its responsibilities in the legal field to ensure that the rights of the people are respected.

F. Darwish: Dear Dr. Hamdard, how do you assess the role of the youth in supporting CSHRN in Nangarhar province?

Dr. Hamdard: The youth is very active and strong and is an important factor of stimulation for the respect of human rights in society in Nangarhar province. In the eastern provinces youth is active in different activities such as in local councils and youth councils. They are getting education in these councils so that they are able to defend their rights. They have a good relationship with civil society organization in the east, in particular with CSHRN, and by this they want to increase their capacity to play their role in society.

The situation is very difficult for a large number of young persons. They are faced with a severe lack of job opportunities, but have at the same time often the responsibility for a family. This puts them into a difficult economical situation.

F. Darwish: Dear Dr. Hamdard, after the creation of the eastern coordination office for CSHRN, what changes took place in the eastern provinces of the country?

Dr. Hamdard: Firstly, let me remind you that the aim of the creation of CSHRN was to promote human rights, to increase the capacities of the human rights organizations and to support the morale of civil society fighting for the respect of human rights.

The effect of the creation of CSHRN was very valuable for the eastern region.

F. Darwish: What is the best book that you have studied until now and who is your best friend? Maybe this question surprises you, but to be a good friend is one of the tasks of civil society.

Dr. Hamdard: My fellow workers are my best friends.

F. Darwish: Every person chooses good friends and sometimes these friends will reflect one’s own personality and one will be related to each other through being represented in an assembly together as fellow workers or by being part of the same family. Based on this, I would like to ask you, who is your best friend and why. You certainly do not have to answer this question, but for the sake of the attractiveness of this discussion, I would appreciate an answer.

Dr. Hamdard: I have many best friends in and outside of the network. A best friend for me is somebody from whom I do not have to hide anything.

F. Darwish: We want to continue our interview by your views on who is a good writer.

Dr. Hamdard: Malik Mohammad Sitez is a strong human rights activist, but he is also a powerful investigator and writer in such different fields as politics, social circumstances, and human rights. He has written many books and articles and has given interviews.

F. Darwish: What do you think about your future?

Dr. Hamdard: I believe that my future lies with supporting CSHRN in being successful.

F. Darwish: As a last point, please tell me your impression of CSHRN? Is it a good environment for you? And what is your favorite memory of your work with CSHRN?

Dr. Hamdard: I have started to work for human rights during the Taliban regime in the eastern region, before CSRHN was founded. But the network proved to be a good teacher for me. I got introduced to the system and the standards of human rights with highly regarded persons in the field of human rights. I gained through this a lot of experience. The other important factor for me is that CSRHN represents a bright, transparent and confident part of the Afghan society, and the work with the national community as well as the international one is very enjoyable.

CSHRN is for me a good place to be. CSHRN is growing and with small steps we will walk in the direction of advancing human rights and the rule of law.

To work in the network also provides many good memories, such as the participation in the one day conference in Dubai in 2006 for the strengthening of CSHRN. Another worthwhile souvenir is the travel to the historical place of Bamyan in 2007 with my fellow workers, where we were welcomed in a very friendly way by the civil society as well as the government. We were visiting historical places and saw where the Buddhas have been destroyed. We also enjoyed the nice place of the Amir Dam. With much regret and sorrow I remember one of my friends and fellow travelers, the respected late Hafizullah Haidar. My memories of him will always remain and I wish that his soul may be happy.

F. Darwish: I am really happy about the interesting contributions from all of you. I would like to congratulate you to the 10th of December, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I wish you all a lot of success.

Interview with the regional coordinator of the north and north east and the assistant

Following is the part dealing with the northern and northeastern region.

F. Darwish: Mr. Kazemi, as we know that you celebrated the second year of your activities in the north and northeast, how do you evaluate these two years?

Discuss12-04-4Mr. Kazemi: The north and the northeast of Afghanistan is an important part of the country. The people of this area have always wanted and have always supported peace during history. For this reason, this area is a good place for expanding CSHRN’s activity after they had been established in Kabul. During the first months of our activities, we had to introduce networking for civil society and human rights. Also, we had to become aware about the situation of civil society and human rights in the north. As an example, we conducted human rights programs in different provinces such as Balkh, Kunduz and Juzjan. This created a good familiarity among civil society organizations in the provinces.

Conducting workshops and debates for building the capacities on human rights concepts, civil society and citizenship are other programs that the north coordination center organized during these past two years.

F. Darwish: Ms. Azkiya, may I have your opinion regarding this issue?

Discuss12-04-3Ms. Azkiya: As you know, the ground is ready for human rights activities in the north. As we have a strategy with three main points of action, which are: coordination, capacity building and advocacy, the northern coordination center also follows this strategy and arranges activities according to it. During the past two years, the northern coordination center had different programs on capacity building and coordination as Mr. Kazemi mentioned before. In addition to these programs we had a comprehensive program by the name of “Human rights debate, opportunities, and challenges” for which we had representatives of civil society organizations from five northern provinces and four from northeastern provinces. Conducting such programs is an effective mean for facilitating coordination among organizations from different provinces.

F. Arezo: Mr. Kazemi, as a coordinator, can you tell us about one of your objectives?

Mr. Kazemi: answering this question is really hard, because it is difficult to measure if the objectives are reached, but in spite of these, in my point of view, the result of our conducting training workshops, debates on human rights, are to bring recognition among civil society organizations and other human rights activists in the north and northeast. Certainly, supporting and strengthening of this recognition creates a society based on law and citizenship.

F. Darwish: Ms. Azkiya, what is your opinion regarding this issue?

Ms. Azkiya: The answer to this question is hard, because work on human rights issues is not perceivable in a visible objective to that in two years. Coordination among civil society organizations and supporting of each other is one of the objectives for CSHRN in the north.

F. Darwish: please tell us about your communication with national and international organizations? How do you coordinate with them?

Mr. Kazemi: the civil society and human rights network in the north had different programs and will continue them with different civil society organizations. In these programs we had the representative of civil society organizations, national and international organizations and states. We have cooperation with different organizations for better and more influential work.

CSHRN had a different joint program with UNAMA, AIHRC and other civil society organizations in the north in these two years. Using the ability and capability of different organizations such as AIHRC, UNAMA, civil society organizations and other academic organizations is a useful method for networking and for an improved coordination.

F. Darwish: Dear colleagues, please talk about yourselves a little bit. How is your personal life? What are your hobbies?

Mr. Kazemi: Generally, after daily work, I listen to the news, because I like to know the events of Afghanistan and other areas. I like to follow those events, which are related to the Afghan situation. Music, sport, human rights, sociology are also my hobbies.

Ms. Azkiya: daily, from the morning to the afternoon I am at the office. After that, I watch TV, and listen to news. My hobby is reading and listening to music.

F. Darwish: Mr. Kazemi: we know that you recently traveled to Cambodia . Please tell us about your trip.

Mr. Kazemi: Cambodia is a country, where a great number of human rights violations happened. About 1.7 million people became the victims of these violations during the regime of Kmer Rouge. During the 17th century, as I think, the people of Cambodia had a strong cooperation and willingness to work together for peace and they used the opportunity and went towards the rule of law in Cambodia. People voluntarily worked to make civilians being interested to go back and to learn about their history and to learn from mistakes from the past and to develop a central state. Monuments were built in order to make people being able to look back and to understand. Besides, they developed new cities with modern buildings, developed the tourist sector, and health facilities. This shows that Cambodia is on the way to development.

F. Darwish: Which are the best books that you have read until now?

Mr. Kazemi: ‘The difficult way to freedom’ by Nelson Mandela

Nasima: ‘Famous Women in History’ and the biography of Helen Keller.

F. Darwish: What is the best movie that you have watched so far?

Mr. Kazemi: The terminator

F. Darwish: Who is your best friend?

Ms. Azkiya: I have a lot of good friends of whom I am proud and the best of this friends which whom I grew up is Allyah Sharifi.

Mr. Kazemi: I have a lot of good friends, but I want to recall two of them here: Azaryoun Matin and Sorab Samanyan.

F. Darwish: Each person has an ideal and wants to become like these persons and you and we work in an organization like a family.

Mr. Kazemi: It is so difficult to answer, but as I work on human rights values, citizen rights and state, the best ideal for me is Malek Sitez. Besides knowing a lot about human rights, he is the best manager with the best abilities and he is a very good friend, who is very kind and this are the points I can only find in Malek.

Ms. Azkiya: In the field that I work, Malek Sitez is the idol for me because he is an expert in all the concepts he works. In my private work, my mother is the best ideal for me because despite a lot of problems, she is strong and wants to defend the rights of women.

F. Darwish: Who is the best writer in your opinion?

Mr. Kazemi: Sadeq Hedayat.

F. Darwish: I think it is good to know what you think about your future.

Ms. Azkiya: The future of my generation depends on the situation of the country. I always pray for permanent peace so that we all should have a good future.

Mr. Kazemi: I hope for peace and the rule of law in Afghanistan . I am convinced that my future as well as the future of my colleagues depends on the way, Afghanistan is developing.

F. Darwish: Please tell us how do you evaluate CSHRN? Do you find CSHRN is a good place for you? If yes, please tell me one of your best memories regarding your work.

Mr. Kazemi: CSHRN is my home. Most of the time, I work in CSHRN together with my great colleagues. My best time is when I am in Kabul and work and eat with my colleagues like a family. Therefore, I think the network is, besides the debate programs, the best place for team building, to be friendly among each other and to become familiar with other human rights activists.

Ms. Azkiya: CSHRN is the best place to improve our capacity and we have the best time with our colleagues in our office. When I am with my colleagues in the office, I feel like I am with my family.

Interview with the regional coordinator of the west

Following is the interview with Aziza Khairandish, the CSHRN coordinator for the western region.

Discuss12-04-5Aziza Khairandish is one of the important women in the western region as well as on country level, and she has an important role to play regarding the development of civil foundations in Herat.

Ms Khairandish has been since two years the CSHRN coordinator in the western region; she is married and has a kind and artistic family that supports her to work for human rights.

F. Darwish: Ms Khairandish, recently, you had an interview with the media regarding the difficult situation of women in Herat. Can you tell us more about it? Why do women burn themselves in Herat? Have you investigated the main reasons for this?

Khairandish: Forced marriages, several wives, the cost of marriage, high dowry, interference of the family with the live of the couple, economic poverty, strong traditions, incorrect interpretation of the religion, unfair competition within the families, a lack of understanding, prevention from receiving education, no consideration for who are the favorite men of the girls, a lack of the access to justice, a lack of confidence injustice. These are the main problems that all the women in Afghanistan have to deal with, but the self burning of women in Herat has other reasons. The main reason could be the high information they have concerning their rights.

Herat province is close to Iran and the people of Herat, particularly the women, orientate themselves more at the comparatively modern culture of Iran. Additionally, after the fall of the Taliban regime, some civil foundations started programs about the rights of women, but it has to be said that most of the information was presented by persons who did not have enough capacity to deliver it in a way sensitive enough to the existing traditions. This at times created problems within the families.

Today, the women in Herat need more independence as a life like forty years ago is not acceptable anymore to them. Their wishes can not be reconciled with the old tradition, when the husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law often imposed their will on the women. The women react strongly to such impositions. This is a common situation within all the families. The people in Herat are still too involved in backward traditions; the men of Herat are not ready to change their traditional behavior. The families in Herat have expanded relations and more or less all the families know each other. But even the educated and enlightened persons in Herat are not ready to break with the traditions and the men are afraid of giving any rights to their wives, daughters or sisters because they think that such an action will damage their dignity.

Another reason for the difficulties, women are facing in Herat could be their requests in economical matters. Today, the women in Herat think about a modern life and would like to participate in it, but this is too far from the reality of women in Herat.

Herat has after Kabul the highest number of educated women in the country, many talents can be found, in particular in the field of literature and art, but there exist no occasions to actually promote these abilities. To go to the theater, cinema and watching TV or even to participate in a simple interview, round table or a cultural celebration is seen by most families as being a fault. The women of Herat are more or less aware about their economic, cultural, political and civil rights, they also believe in their abilities, but the current atmosphere does not allow for progress in this field. Recently, I discovered that the educated women in Herat are captured in a despondency which is a big problem and should be taken into consideration in a serious manner by the government and the foundations which are working in this matter.

I am married and I have three children. I am completely satisfied with my living conditions. During my leisure time I like to listen to music, to study books and to listen to the news. Sometimes I also do some tailoring. Some years ago, when the security situation used to be good, we went with our families outside of Herat for picnics, as this is a habit of the people of Herat. But during this year, we preferred to stay at home because of the bad security situation. During their leisure time, my sons play music and this is a good occasion for me to participate in their party and to spend my time with them.

F. Darwish: Ms Khairandish, you as a defender of human rights, how do you evaluate the cultural rights in this province? Recently, some news have been received regarding the plunder of historical things from the museum in Herat which is a big concern for the population. What is your understanding of this topic?

Khairandish: The authorities in Herat are too involved in their own political and economic business and do not have time to think about such issues. In the past, there were significant cultural activities, but now they have become much less. Due to the bad security situation, the morale of the people has been seriously affected. The majority of the population is just thinking about finding a way to leave Herat. Every day, several incidents are happening in the city which do not get broadcasted on the media and the authorities close their eyes.

After the fall of Taliban, Herat was quickly developing into an industrial city. Compared to other cities in Afghanistan, it was from an economic point of view in a better situation. Although at that time there was no attention paid to the cultural rights, the people were optimistic about the future, and this was a good motivation for them to make use of their capacities for development.

Since four or five years some organizations in the name of rehabilitation of historical foundations started to dig the ground without permission and discovered valuable materials which they then robbed.

Since this started, some persons dealing with culture expressed their concern and warned to government, but unfortunately, the government played a deaf ear. Several unique hand writings and historical materials were stolen but no measures were taken.

In the Soltany Museum in Herat, the head of the museum, Mr. Soltany, claimed that some 500 historical pieces, with an age up to 3000 years, and 22 other valuable relicts had been stolen. The loss of these important cultural items has a very negative impact on the feelings of the educated people in Herat. These materials belong to the period 2000 years before Islam came, and is related to the Ghorian, Qaznawean and Temorian periods.

There is no doubt that some individuals are involved in this issue. The reason why people became disappointed is the carelessness of the ministry of culture and information, that behaved as if nothing had happened. There was a rumor that high ranking people of the ministry for culture and information were involved. In this relation it is also interesting to know that a person arrested in relation with this matter, died of unknown reasons inside the prison. The corpse was transferred to Kabul for an autopsy, but the people have not been informed regarding the result of this autopsy so far.

F. Darwish: Thanks Ms Kairandish

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