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Abdul Hamid Mobarez: 'Democracy Is the Choice of the People and It Is Up to Them to Protect It'

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Abdul Hamid Mobarez is a former chief of the official Bakhtar news agency, three-times governor and a founding member of the Federation and Chairman of Afghanistan National Journalists' Union (ANJU). He was named Deputy Minister of Information and Culture upon his return from exile in 2002. He is currently a Member of the High Peace Council. He has published many books and articles about democracy, politics, and women's rights.

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Photo : Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA / Matthieu Hackière

Can you share with us some memories of instances when your rights have been violated and how they have influenced your life?

The arrival of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan is one of the worst memories in my life. It turned my world upside down; I was forced to leave the country.

What are the important achievements of the new era in Afghanistan?

Freedom of expression now exists in Afghanistan at a level that was previously unimaginable. Also, women now enjoy a relative degree of freedom, compared to the horrendous past.

What gives you hope in the future?

The very fact that we are transiting to democracy gives me reason to have confidence. Democracy is the choice of the people and it is up to them to protect it. I am certain that they will not fail.

What do you fear most today?

My fear is that the next government may not be able to undertake the basic necessary political and social reforms. We need these reforms so badly. The next government must have a genuine understanding of the conditions in the country and a practical plan to resolve the problems.

What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan?

There is a major conflict between the traditional conservatives who have always remained in Afghanistan, and the educated migrants and refugees who have returned from living in the West. There are many manifestations of this conflict. For example, the Public Media Law has been changed four times, going back and forth between the hands of the conservatives and the modernists. And then the Anti-Narcotics Law has not changed even once, even though it is so essential to fight drugs in a country like Afghanistan.

Is it possible that girls could once again be banned from schools and women excluded from social participation, as was the case under the Taliban?

I believe that major changes have taken place in Afghanistan since the collapse of the Taliban. Against such a backdrop of fundamental, structural changes, the Taliban will not be able to dominate Afghanistan again. The free people of Afghanistan would never allow that scenario to be repeated.

Have the rights of any of your female family members ever been violated?

Women's rights have not been violated in my family because most of our family members live abroad and have grown up with the culture of equality that prevails in the West.

Which factors deter women from participating in social, economic, political and cultural spheres?

Repressive customs prevent women from playing an active role in society. Another deterrent factor is education. Most women, with the exception of an urban minority, are deprived of the gift of literacy. A further deterrent factor is religious extremism, which has prevented women from exercising their rights, even if they are entitled to those rights under the law.

What are the major demands of women?

For one, they want to raise levels of awareness amongst men about women's rights. Men should be educated about those rights. Another demand is the spread of the mass media such as the radio, television and print media. Radio plays a very important role, because it is very cheap and can reach the most remote areas. Through the growth of the media, especially the radio, women, wherever they are living, can have access to a wide range of information about the various political, social and legal issues.

What do you wish for your daughter?

I wish for her to be able to live in a free environment and enjoy all her natural rights.

What have you done in your personal and professional life to fight against discrimination?

Ever since I was a student, I have been active in the fight against discrimination. For example, I published a paper titled "The Law." At the time, nobody was familiar with the notion of the law or had a proper understanding of the laws. I have written several books, such as The Emergence of the Taliban and The Fall of the Monarchy, Federalism and an Analysis of Political Realities of Afghanistan 1919-1996. I have also written a book called Women in Afghanistan and the World. I have written another book titled The Emergence of Democracy in Afghanistan, which will soon be published. All my activities have been directed at fulfilling the citizenship rights of all Afghans.

Do you have a specific message to share?

The people of Afghanistan have always been faithful to people who have approached them sincerely and treated them with respect. Afghans appreciate people who respect the rights of the nation and defend those rights.

"Unveiling Afghanistan, the Unheard Voices of Progress" is a campaign by Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA and FIDH, which explores views held by Afghan civil society actors. Influential social, political and cultural actors hope to spark conversation and debate about building a society that is inclusive of women's and human rights in Afghanistan.

You can read original interviews in Dari on Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA