Democracy in Afghanistan

The idea that democracy is a foreign ideal perpetrated on the people of Afghanistan by outsiders is a misconception writes Khorshied Samad in the March 7 edition of the Ottawa Citizen. On the eve of International Women’s day, the wife to the Afghanistan ambassador to Canada and former correspondent and Kabul bureau chief for Fox news is clear in her assessment on democracy in the war torn and much troubled country: “while Afghans remain critical of some aspects of the NATO mission over the past eight years, they believe in further developing democratic values and structures as a safeguard against extremism and injustice that are considered universal threats”.

Samad continues to write: ” the misconception that democracy is alien to Afghanistan’s society is wrong. Afghan women fought for and achieved certain important rights prior to the Taliban”. In fact, the 1964 Afghan constitution recognized men and women as equal citizens under the law with equal rights and women were active in all professional fields until the Taliban takeover. Now, ” the volatile security situation and certain archaic norms continue to put pressure on women and limit women’s and girl’s roles in public life, denying them the full enjoyment of their rights. Human right’s violations including domestic violence, rape, child marriage and honour killings are still reported”.

” Increasing U.S. military forces and reinforcing NATO coalition troops are a necessary strategy, especially during an election year, in overcoming the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency plaguing Southeastern Afghanistan”. Samad believes that military action is not the sole solution to Afghan’s reformation. To ensure that Afghanistan does not fall into failed state status, focused nation-building and reconstruction which would allow for the seeds of democratic values to flourish must  be implemented by outside efforts. ” This is necessary to ensure that a healthy civil society can grow and develop, protecting such ideals as freedom of speech and equal rights for all citizens, which are upheld in the 2004 Afghan constitution. Afghans do not want to abandon these accomplishments”.

What is there to dispute? How can there be opposition to the will, testament and hope of the ordinary Afghani?

We are told time and again that culture is relative and that we have to allow for this relativity; to understand the actions of these cultures within the context of the modern world. That is fine, insofar as we can strive to make those allowances. But by the same token, we surely cannot see this culture effectively understanding or applying the necessary responsibilities required to establish a true democracy in the modern sense, Taliban or not.  The overall illiteracy rate is astonishing despite apparent strides in eduation. Afghanistan guarantees women equal rights and a quarter of the parliamentary and provincial council seats yet few candidates are women. Girls are forced into hiding for seeking an open education and their teachers either beaten or killed. Does Khorshied Samad consider the abundant failings of an ancient culture incapable in it’s ability to realize the obligations and responsibilities that democracy demands a fruitful stride? Is there any recognition of the loss of troops in aiding this seemingly endless transition? What role does the Afghan government play in the perpetual dysfunction of a nation constantly on the brink of collapse and it’s failure to acknowledge women as full persons?

Today Canada realized it’s 112th troop lost. A good friend of mine stated that if we don’t go into Afghanistan to win, then one soldier’s life lost is one too many; if we go to win, then 10,000 lost is very few.

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, we are reminded that Afghanistan still has much work ahead. Hopefully with the continued support of the international community its young, fragile democracy will flourish so the Afghan people can become truly self-sufficient, live in peace and security and with hope for the future” Samad writes and I couldn’t agree more. We can hope that this fragile democracy finds it’s surest footing and lasting promise first and foremost from the Afghani people themselves supported not by outside forces but by it’s own government committed to a future of stability, equality and peace.

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