Afghanistan's emerging antiwar movement
Afghan NGOs are teaching human rights and Islamic law along with calls to end the war with a national peace jirga.
(Page 2 of 2)
Awakened Youth is just one of the many Afghan-run civil society organizations that have sprung up in recent years. While international NGOs receive most of the attention, Afghan NGOs actually make up the bulk of the NGO presence in the country, says M. Hashim Mayar, deputy director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella organization of NGOs active in the country. "Local NGOs are playing more of a role, especially as the security situation deteriorates," he says. ACBAR estimates that of the roughly 1,400 registered NGOs, nearly 1,100 are purely Afghan operations.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Sheila Samimi, manager of the Afghan Women's Network (AWN), another prominent NGO that focuses on women's rights, says that local NGOs are well-suited to deliver an antiwar message to Afghans. AWN is composed of 63 small women-oriented NGOs that work around the country.
In a small, crowded schoolroom outside Kabul students watch a video of a young girl forced into marriage. The girl, unable to run a household at such an age, gets viciously beaten to death by her in-laws. In the closing scene, the girl's tearful parents regret having given their daughter for marriage and beg the viewer for forgiveness.
The AWN also uses their classroom visits to teach young rural Afghans about politics and the benefits of peace.
Meanwhile, members of the Afghanistan Women's Council are trained in making arguments based on Islamic law. In poor, conservative Afghan villages, the AWC dispatches women to teach about women's rights and the virtues of supporting peace negotiations.
Despite these strengths, Afghan peace groups are also beset by weaknesses, says Habibullah Rafeh, a political analyst with the Afghanistan Academy of the Sciences. "A lot of these parties are organized along ethnic or tribal lines," he says. The Awakened Youth and the National Peace Jirga, for instance, consist mostly of Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group.
Many Afghan NGOs rely on foreign donors for support, which may weaken their ability to act independently. "Afghan civil society operations are very much framed by the budget lines of the donor" says Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
For Ms. Gilani and other peace activists, this doesn't mean however that they let the West off lightly, however. "We are against Western policy in Afghanistan," she says. "They should bury their guns in a grave and focus on diplomacy and economic development."