Afghan-Canadians Condemn the Taliban and Celebrate their Nation’s Election

7571Leila, a Langara College student, attended the anti-Taliban rally in Vancouver.

More than 75 Afghan-Canadians gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 6 to condemn Taliban terrorists who—despite threats of violence—were unable to derail Afghanistan’s historic national election, held April 5. “I felt like a kid on Christmas day,” said 22-year-old Hamid, one of Afghanistan’s diaspora who watched the elections on television with his mother. “It’s very, very cool.”
Small children sat on the grey, stone steps of the Vancouver gallery, holding signs directed at the Taliban such as, “Enough! Stop Killing!” while their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers listened to members of Vancouver’s Afghan community condemn Taliban insurgencies.
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In the run-up to the election, the Taliban stepped up its attacks in Afghanistan, targeting such landmarks as La Taverna du Liban, a famous Lebanese restaurant in the capital of Kabul. Two Canadians died in the attack that killed more than 20 people. Days before the April 5 election, another attack wounded Canadian AP journalist Kathy Gannon and left Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus dead. North Vancouver optometrist Roshan Thomas, who created the Sparks Academy in Afghanistan for girls and boys, was also killed, along with Calgary nurse Zeenab Kassam, in an earlier Taliban attack at Kubul’s luxury Serena Hotel.
“The recent killings were a shock to the world,” Afghan-Canadian Mustafa Delsoz told the Vancouver crowd. “We show solidarity with those who have passed away.”
Lauryn Oates, the projects director for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which has established schools, teacher-training and gender equality programs in the Central Asian nation, also spoke at the rally. The Taliban’s sole “goal is the surplus of violence. They are against modernity, civilization and human rights,” Oates said.
Oates declared the April 5 election “a triumph that is unparalleled.” Twelve million Afghans were eligible to vote, and the turn out was estimated at about 60 percent—double the number who voted in the last national election. Many millions of women cast their ballot, a momentous step forward in a nation where fundamentalist Islamic edicts set forth by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 reign stripped women of any rights. Mr. Parwani, who organized the anti-Taliban protest, added that the increase in women voters communicated a definitive “ ‘no’ to terrorism.”
Leila, a 26-year-old Afghan-Canadian nursing student, was thrilled by the elections. “It’s so exciting, I wish I was there to be a part of it.”
Pundits are saying that a clear winner will be unlikely to emerge from the April 5 elections, thus requiring a runoff election in the near future.
DSC_7584Children in Afghanistan are often the victims of Taliban violence, a tragic legacy that Afghan-Canadian youngsters are acutely aware of.
27634Lauryn Oates, projects director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, says that, for the Taliban, violence is an end in itself.
7619The Taliban are especially brutal towards Afghan women.
DSC_7563Afghan-Canadian children participated in the April 6 rally to protest widespread Taliban violence.
7603Sabit Mirzad (left) and Wali Sarwari are Afghan-Candadian students who have high hopes for Afghanistan’s future following the success of the democratic national elections April 5.

Nurturing a free press key to Afghanistan’s democratic future

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Ariana TV (ATN) transmission towers above Kabul, Afghanistan. ATN, a private television network, was launched in 2005. It focuses on informative, cultural and entertainment programming.

Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Moby Media Group, the largest media organization in Afghanistan, recently penned an article about the importance of the media to the future of democracy in Afghanistan. Within five years of the 2001 fall of the Taliban, Mohseni writes, Afghanistan saw the growth of “the freest media sector in the region,” which allowed “civil society to flourish.” This development of a free press, Mosheni added, was “our greatest accomplishment since 2001.” As a result, gender inequality issues and violence towards women became part of the public discourse and awareness around such things as polio vaccinations and voter registration was disseminated. With the upcoming national election in April, it is vital that a new president and his government extend protections to the media. As a safety net, Mohseni adds, the international community must place conditions on aid to protect press freedoms in the years to come.
Mohseni’s position resonates profoundly with Journeys to the Edge. Nurturing, protecting and respecting a free media is something our organization is actively trying to support in Afghanistan by giving the J2E Emerging Journalist Award to Mubareka Sahar Fetrat of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Sahar, only 18, but already a prolific documentary filmmaker, has been accepted into Vancouver’s Langara Digital Film Production course, an intensive four-month program that will enhance her filmmaking skills, allowing her to become an even more significant figure in the Afghanistan media when she returns home. It will also help prepare her to realize her dream of running Afghanistan’s first female-headed production company.
Two months into 2014, Journeys to the Edge is still working with Sahar on obtaining a Temporary Resident Visa. She has made the initial trip to Islamabad, Pakistan, which is the closest Canadian visa office to Kabul (something that needs to be changed!) but must return for a second visit with additional documentation. It is a long and challenging process, but we remain highly optimistic that Sahar will be here in time to start the Langara College program this September.
The future of Afghanistan lies with its youth, of which Sahar is an excellent example. Like their counterparts in other parts of the world, they have “an insatiable appetite for entertainment, news, and current affairs,” writes Mosheni. They are the leaders and the peacemakers of tomorrow. It is important for the West to keep this in mind, and continue to support the nation in tangible ways.