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Hussain Fakhri: 'The Acts We See as 'Violations,' They See as Exercising Their Rights'

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Lieutenant General Sayed Ghulam Hussain Fakhri is the Director-General of the High Office of Anti-Corruption. He joined the Police Academy immediately after graduating from high school and later became a Professor of the Academy. In the 1980s until 1993, he served in a variety of roles in Afghanistan: he was the Head of the National Security Directorate, Deputy Attorney General, and Attorney General of the Armed Forces. He migrated to Peshawar, Pakistan with his family during the civil war. From 1996-2001, he was the manager of "Cooperation", a magazine published by the NGO Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA). Fakhri returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and rejoined the National Security Directorate, where he was appointed Deputy Director in 2010, before being appointed Director-General of the High Office of Anti-Corruption.

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Photo : Jawad Darwaziyan / Matthieu Hackière

Have your rights ever been violated, and if so, how did it affect your life?

I was forced to migrate with my family to Peshawar in Pakistan during the Afghan civil wars. It was a terrible experience to be away from home; I felt a deep sense of lack of identity. I had lost my hope for the future. I had lost my house, my position, and my credibility in migrating from Afghanistan. I remember they once stopped me in one of the bazaars in Peshawar. They arrested and searched me because I did not have my identification papers on me.

What are the most important achievements since the time of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

The changes in the education sector are one of the biggest achievements. The enthusiasm of children, both boys and girls, to go to school and learn is unprecedented in Afghanistan's history. Another major achievement is the development of democracy and its manifestation through elections. We have never seen this level of political participation in the whole history of Afghanistan. In this new system, everybody feels a sense of responsibility to choose their national leader.

What gives you hope for the future?

If all of the achievements I just described are developed consistently and reasonably, accompanied by a long-term plan to advance them, I would describe this as a confidence-building process.

What do you fear most?

My greatest fear is a return to the situation of the 1990s and the anarchism we experienced at that time. Nonetheless, I am an optimistic person and think it is very unlikely we will return to those days.

What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan?

There are major problems concerning the government, both regarding leadership and its administrative structure. The government is facing massive obstacles. One look at the justice and judicial system is enough to reveal the extent of the catastrophe. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to establish institutions of administrative and military personnel, who remain impartial and do not change with the political ups and downs.

Furthermore, we also lack a culture of tolerance. Tolerance was a common value of the Afghan population in the past; now our society is suffering from its absence.

Can you tell us about any specific examples where the human rights of a female family member or friend were violated?

Look! You and I, we see 'human rights violations' as violations. But people from the rural areas, they do not see things the same way. The acts we see as 'violations,' they see as exercising their rights. Most instances of human rights violations have become a part of the customs and culture in the rural areas; they have been accustomed to them. For example, forced marriage is one of the important and widespread customs of the rural areas. I have even witnessed forced marriage within my own family.

What changes are necessary to advance women's rights in Afghanistan?

I think that women will not achieve any political and social change in so far as they have not achieved their economic independence. Work and employment opportunities need to be created for women. Girls need access to education. Women need to play a greater role in politics and actively take part in elections. They should exercise their right to vote to promote their interests.

Which institutions can women rely on to promote their rights and demands?

There are very few institutions domestically that promote women's rights and demands. Until now, women have had to rely on international sources and have not been able to make effective use of the domestic institutions. There will not be any change until women themselves are mobilized and standing on their own two feet.

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

In my personal life, I have never been able to tolerate discrimination and injustice. I have never remained silent in the face of oppression. Whenever I have taken up a new leadership position, I have done my best to eliminate discrimination and inequality from my department so that everybody would be equal. At the same time, I have written several books about societal reforms and the suffering of the people. Even though each book reflects my mentality at the time, you will find the traces of my quest for equality and social justice in each and every one of them.

Do you have a specific message?

I am not fully satisfied with what I have achieved in my work, neither in the public service nor in my literary endeavors. At work, I have always been troubled by a doubt that I have not served my compatriots in the best way possible. In my writings, I am never satisfied, even with the books I am most passionate about. Everything I have done, I have done in haste.

"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.

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