"Afghanistan needs to heal its trauma of injustice"

Mr. Eng. Aziz Rafiee is the Managing Director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum.


January 20, 2010
Interview by Johannes Kode
Dieses Interview existiert auch auf Deutsch.

Questions by Johannes Kode, Heinrich-Böll-Foundation

Mr. Rafiee, last year you said an increase of the monetary aid for infrastructure and governance projects in Afghanistan would be ineffective, since the military-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams were proving counterproductive. How could the funding be better employed?

Rafiee: Politicization and militarization of aid in Afghanistan is counterproductive. The more we separate monetary aid from the military perspective as well as from the political perspectives, the more effective it will be, being more quickly reachable to the people. My suggestion: it would be more productive to let the Afghan civil society and Afghan NGOs for development, reconstruction, and rehabilitation jump into the position, actually helping Afghanistan.

You argued that if the funds currently spent on the military would be used more wisely for development, Afghanistan would not become a lost cause after the withdrawal of the ISAF troops. Who would prevent Afghanistan from a backlash into a regime with limited human rights?

Rafiee: I do not see the withdrawal to be in the coming years. Afghanistan does not have a military solution at this stage. This country is suffering from three important issues, which need to be addressed first to prevent the country from becoming a lost cause. The first one is justice. We do not have justice within the country. There are people who have committed violations and violence against people and are still in power. There are people who are involved in drug and many other criminal and war crime issues who are still in power. If we do not implement proper justice mechanisms in Afghanistan, we will not be able to solve the problems for the future. Afghanistan, besides providing justice, is also required to take up the issue of power in the country.

The international community says, “the stability of Afghanistan is a prerequisite for development.” I rather believe justice is prerequisite of everything. If we do not provide justice for the people and seek reconciliation for the victims, stability would not be possible.

Justice for me is not executing people. Justice for me is not to kill more people. Justice is the practice of confession for the atrocities. It has to heal the trauma in Afghanistan, the trauma of injustice, 30 years of violence and war. We need a word of apology from the ones who killed and committed all these crimes.

What does the justice needed entail at this stage?

Rafiee: Justice has to be seen from a social perspective. Transitional justice also needs to be implemented step by step. With this, we are not excluding anybody from the society. We have serious problems of injustice. For example, I quote one member of the civil society: “The head of the police headquarter in one of the provinces, who committed crime against my family, wanted me to file a case against the headquarters, which is impossible. I cannot do anything against him. He is still in power and he would never let me take the case up.” This is an unbearable situation. As soon as we are able to provide justice, we need to focus on the governance catastrophe in the country—poverty eradication, development, and security through good governance mechanisms.

What can the civil society do to address these issues?

Rafiee: Civil society is part of very strong awareness spreading for democratic values and development. We need to make sure that the people are internalizing the values and that people understand that ownership is with the people of Afghanistan. The empowerment component of capacity building is important as well. If the people of Afghanistan do not see that the projects coming to Afghanistan are their own projects, they will not secure them. They cannot sustain them in the long-term. Civil society can actually pave the road for proper development processes.

How can Germany contribute in this field?

Rafiee: My suggestion touches on three important issues. The first is to push development work and stress the capacity building of the Afghan police and army to be built up and to take the lead and the ownership of the processes for their country.

Secondly, Germans should work in very close coordination with other NATO nations to help the Afghans in terms of maintaining their own security at the local, national, and regional level. We are suffering from the lack of coordination among different actors and nations. The majority of the actors are not aware of each other’s plans. There is a lack of coordination between the international and the Afghan government, which creates a disaster. Sometimes the effects are so hard that we all become victims.

The last suggestion is to work on a proper regional cooperation between Afghans and their neighbors, which is the giving of proper recognition to the Afghans at the regional and international level from a diplomatic perspective.

What role does the Afghan media play for the work of the civil society?

Rafiee: Media affects everything. It is part of awareness building, part of advocacy for everything, part of lobbying, and influencing policies and their development, as well as helping people to understand the proper values, principles, and procedures of democracy, which are extremely important. Media have developed very well in Afghanistan. I must say, however, it is not enough. We still have to pressurize on its progress. We also have to make sure that the government of Afghanistan will be committed to the freedom of expression for a longer period of time – that they are not denying it in the way they currently are, because we are about to go to the London conference to talk about the reconciliation program.

We do not know what we will have to sacrifice for reconciliation there. Either women’s rights, the freedom of expression, or democracy will be sacrificed. Otherwise, the Taliban would not join with these three important values we share and practice.

What do you expect the outcome of the London Conference on Afghanistan to look like?

Rafiee: I am very optimistic. At least we will talk about important issues. One is going to be the coordination amongst actors, which I am very positive about. I hope that this coordination will somehow be implemented in Afghanistan. The second issue is the development and security in Afghanistan. I hope that they will come to some proper conclusions. Thirdly, they will take on reconciliation, and we are not sure how this will help Afghans to ensure their future solidarity and peace.

German bishop Mrs. Käßmann recently said that “religiously motivated” civil actors should mediate between the Taliban and ISAF troops. You teach Afghans in mediation. What is the potential of such an endeavor?

Rafiee: My argument about negotiations, reconciliation, debates, and discourses is that you can only talk and discuss issues with people with whom you share fundamental values. It is very important for us to understand whom we are talking with. If they have common values with us, yes, we can work with them. One of the issues within part of the opposition in Afghanistan, particularly with the Al Qaeda and the majority of the fundamentalist groups, is that we do not share values, so our discussion and negotiations are not pointing to a common conclusion or result. We believe in freedom of expression, we believe in democracy, we believe in women’s liberty and mobility, while the other side does not. The war in Afghanistan is a question of legitimacy and value.

…are you favoring military force when it comes to fundamentalist threats?

Rafiee: At this stage it is a need, yes. Not for the future. At the moment when Afghans are empowered, I think we can come to the next stage of negotiations.

But do you think that the Taliban will eventually negotiate, accepting freedom of expression, human rights to women and democracy as given?

Rafiee: I’m doubtful.

When will Afghanistan be able to provide security for the people?

Rafiee: I believe it will require a longer time. My suggestion yesterday in a discussion was that we might need 30 years, given the current move and mode. Eventually, it depends on the power of the Afghans, and on the capacity and capability of the Afghan army and police.

Where do you see Afghanistan in 2013?

Rafiee: Afghanistan will be in a far, far better mood. Afghanistan will have its second elected parliament. Afghanistan will be expanding new development for the people and a new movement for democracy in Afghanistan will happen.

Do you think all international military forces could be gone in 2013?

Rafiee: Not all of them but some of them, yes.