Abandonment or Advocacy: an Afghan’s Hope for Solidarity and Support from the World Community, Comments on Survival and Future Building
By Mansoor Akbar*
Afghans are starving. The recent reports of people selling their organs and children are but two indications of their extreme vulnerability. The United Nations Development Program has warned that “97 percent of Afghans could plunge into poverty by mid 2022.” The international community is delivering some humanitarian assistance, but much more help is needed to fend off this disaster. The lives of over 35 million Afghans rely on support from the international community. Humanitarian assistance, health, education, and other essential services must continue and workers must be paid. People’s representatives and a number of civil society organizations are working on the ground to deliver humanitarian assistance, protect women and children and stand tall against violence. The Afghan diaspora on the other hand is actively mobilizing resources and advocating for human rights in the U.S. and around the world. This piece calls for civil society activists and educators to network with Afghans in the diaspora to be more aware of their perspectives and informed of their needs going forward.
The fall of the US-sponsored government to the Taliban has led to socioeconomic upheaval of lethal proportions. It has affected people’s daily subsistence as donor-funded programs closed and Afghanistan’s monetary reserves were frozen, eliminating 40% of the GDP and 75% of the government budget. Schools and universities remain closed. Over 4 million school-age girls cannot go to school. Women are banned from public life. News is censored. Events in the ides of August hyped international media, but, as the situation worsens, the country once again is being sidelined in terms of the US and the international community’s priorities, slipping from news headlines to sporadic reporting on human rights violations and extrajudicial killings. Important questions for us all are, ‘will the international community abandon Afghanistan in the midst of humanitarian and political disaster?’ Or, ‘are efforts being made to preserve at least some of the social and economic gains made over the last twenty years?’ The answer to the first question may lie in the responses of American and global civil society and their multiple advocacy actions seeking to relieve suffering and nurture hope.
Important questions for us all are, ‘will the international community abandon Afghanistan in the midst of humanitarian and political disaster?’ Or, ‘are efforts being made to preserve at least some of the social and economic gains made over the last twenty years?’ The answer to the first question may lie in the responses of American and global civil society and their multiple advocacy actions seeking to relieve suffering and nurture hope.
Despite the mounting political uncertainty and economic deprivation, Afghans are still hopeful about the nation’s future. A future where people do not have to go to sleep hungry; in which people think about how to better their lives, not how to survive a growing poverty-induced armed conflict. The past four decades of conflict took lives of millions of ordinary Afghans – they are tired of bloodshed. They want to live in harmony. They want to work. They want to build a sustainable future for families and children. I find it heartening to see the broader Afghan Diaspora and activists continue, even at risk, to raise their voices, advocating to restore human rights, freedom of speech, and women’s education and their right to work. Working Afghans abroad are sending remittances to their families and friends. Fully aware of the situation in their country, maintaining close contact with those they left behind, but did not abandon, they are part of this emerging global network of advocacy and solidarity that is a significant source of hope for a socially and economically just and politically viable future for Afghanistan.
The United States and others in the international community have already begun to set conditions in an attempt to encourage them to respect human rights and adopt a more inclusive model of governance. Irrespective of any political settlement and the Taliban’s commitment to human rights and their willingness to form an inclusive government, a new chapter of engagement with the people could begin, if it includes the most representative voices of the whole Afghan community, those who truly understand the most crucial needs and ways to help stave off the impending disaster for the present and help improve lives for the long run.
The American poet and internationalist, Archibald McLeish observed, “There is one thing more painful than learning from experience and that is not learning from experience (Maxwell, 1995, p. 52).” New initiatives need to take into account experiences from the past. What did and did not work should be carefully evaluated. Huge investments have been made in creating institutional and community structures. Efforts should be made to strengthen and build upon them. Skilled and well-trained Afghan cadre is needed to help run the public and private sectors. Many currently outside our country, hoping to return to a viable self-determined Afghanistan, call for the solidarity of international civil society and their collaboration with such efforts – carried out with full respect for our self-determination.