Aman Pouyamak is a poet and a writer. He published a clandestine magazine, working in secret with Afghan women during the reign of the Taliban. After the Taliban's departure, he established a literary society called Eshraq [Intuition].
Photo : Jakfar Hosseini / Matthieu Hackière
Have your human rights ever been violated?
The Taliban's arrival in Kabul left a big scar on my mind and life. They closed all the libraries and banned books. The Taliban were the biggest obstacle to my progress. I was writing a novel at the time. The arrival of the Taliban made any form of exchange and cultural relationships amongst the intellectuals very difficult. I never finished my novel.
What are three important achievements in Afghanistan today?
We have more freedom of speech, and have seen the rise of a modern urban culture, a much-needed healing element for our war-afflicted minds. We have also seen the arrival and emergence of technology.
What gives you hope for the future?
In the existing system, everything is on loan. I cannot view things optimistically. Freedom of speech itself is not an achievement gained from within the system or arising from the society itself; it is an imported commodity.
What is your worst fear today?
For each thing we have gained in the past 10 years, we have lost something in its place. We have gained private visual media outlets at the cost of destroying our national state television. Private universities have been established at the cost of undermining our state university. The elite and the principal founders of the universities either left the state university for private universities or left academia for good. Rather than having all these different universities and media outlets, I would prefer to have just a few that worked properly and fulfilled their fundamental purpose.
What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan?
Cultural breakdown and deepening divisions between ethnic and linguistic groups pose a major challenge for Afghanistan: they have brought turmoil and anarchy to our country. Although the roots may lie in the wars of the past 30 years, this government has not done anything to bridge the divides in the decade it has been in power. In fact, it has consistently contributed to deepening them. Most of all, central authorities in Kabul have undertaken a real battle against the Persian language and its speakers.
The government has failed to offer any concrete cultural policy. At least previous regimes had some kind of policy regarding these antagonist partitions. We cannot succeed on any front until we bridge the lingual, ethnic and religious divides that exist in Afghanistan.
Is it possible that schools could once again be closed to girls and women excluded from social participation, as was the case under the Taliban?
If we are being optimistic, it is very unlikely that Afghanistan will return to its former dark era, because the international community has a foothold here. The government has also been able to find its place in the society. The society, in turn, has undergone some changes and has come to terms with the modern world and its new conditions, at least to some extent.
Which factors hinder women's participation in social, economic, political and cultural spheres?
A clear factor limiting women's participation in society today is the lack of separation between religion and politics. Another is patriarchy in our society, which stems from tradition and is propped up by an unclear and one-sided interpretation of Islam. So long as the hierarchy of religious and social power exists, any attempt to promote women's rights or to redefine the role and identity of women will be suppressed and marginalised.
What are the major demands of women?
Women are trying to redefine their identity in Afghanistan. Throughout the history of Afghanistan, women have defined their identity in relation to the identity and power of the men. Now, some women are demanding an equal level of participation in society to their fellow male citizens.
Which resources and institutions can women rely on to promote their rights and demands?
The most important resource for women is the present dynamic: the current conditions have created an opportunity for women to re-establish their identities and place in society. Women should seize this opportunity to reclaim their identity.
What do you wish for your daughter?
I wish that when my daughter grows up, she will have easy access to all the rights that women are deprived of today and be able to live a normal life.
Do you have a specific message to share with the world?
I hope Afghanistan will not repeat its historical mistakes; that it will not go towards war and crisis again. And I hope that, in the near future, the government and the people of Afghanistan will accept the separation of religion and politics as a fundamental principle of society.
"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. Over 50 days, 50 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.