Tearful Karzai warns of youth exodus from Afghanistan. Here's why.
A young judge's woes symbolize a rising generation's dismay over widespread corruption – and their commitment to building Afghanistan.
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To get a sense of the challenges young professionals face in Afghanistan, consider the situation of Ahmadi, the young judge. He packs a gun, carries no identification in case potential kidnappers try to determine whether he works for the government, and survives on a $400 monthly paycheck. Like many judges, he is sometimes sent from Kabul to hear cases in district courts, but he must take his own car – sometimes through Taliban territory. Pleas for armored vehicles or security have so far fallen on deaf ears, says Ahmadi.Skip to next paragraph
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Once when hearing a case in Logar Province, his court was disrupted by gunfire on the nearby governor’s office. People ran out of the courthouse, including Ahmadi, who tried to take shelter in the police chief’s office. A policeman refused him entry, saying it could draw insurgent fire on them. He ran off a couple hundred yards before two rockets slammed into the station, killing the policeman.
Ahmadi’s office has received threatening phone calls and letters from insurgents after hearing cases that put Taliban fighters behind bars. “I’m not scared of anything, except one thing – them cutting my head off,” he says.
The young judge has also been awakened to the rampant corruption at all levels of government. He says that powerful Afghans will phone his superiors in the judiciary and ask for leniency for relatives and neighbors. He worries that if he does not comply with messages sent down to him, higher-ups might make good on threats to send him to courts in Taliban towns or fire him.
“You feel disappointed with yourself. The guy who is a poor guy, I couldn’t help him because he didn’t have someone [inside] who helps him. But this guy who has people but looks like he has done a crime, I cannot do anything against him although it’s my job,” says Ahmadi.
He has now set his sights on going abroad for graduate studies. He talks of returning to Afghanistan after that, but the temptations of security and opportunity in the West are great.
Creating a new political culture
Yet in a hopeful sign for this country, some Afghans educated abroad have returned home. These include people such as parliamentary candidate Janan Mosazai, 30, who recently returned from graduate school in Canada.
He says low voter turnout revealed “a deep mistrust of people in this country. I don’t hear anyone disparaging the idea of democracy or elections, but the low participation and the apathy is a slap in the face to the existing political establishment.”
He says he still sees a chance to mobilize young people outside the political process. He'd like to set up local youth councils that would give young people a chance to do volunteer projects and organize sporting events. Such councils could build relationships on something other than patronage and eventually form a base for a peaceful opposition movement, he says.
“Neither the Taliban nor the existing regime are in harmony with the needs and aspirations of this existing generation of young Afghans,” says Mr. Mosazai. “That’s why there is so much despair among young Afghans [and] that’s why they were so active in this election cycle.”