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Mir Ahmad Jouyanda: 'They Shaved His Head Because He Danced and Was Happy at His Own Wedding'

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Mir Ahmad Jouyanda is Deputy Director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), Director of the Culture and Civil Society Forum, and a former Member of Parliament.


Photo : Armanshahr/Open Asia / Matthieu Hackière

Can you share with us some memories of times when your rights have been violated and how it has influenced your life?

I was imprisoned under the Taliban regime whilst working for the Cultural Heritage Office. Prior to this, I worked as a diplomat in New Delhi. When I returned home, I was fired for being 'an undesirable person' and was unemployed for the next eight months.

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

Most importantly, the men and women of Afghanistan are free to decide their own fate. Furthermore, women now have a tangible presence, for example in the Parliament and the Cabinet. Finally, Afghan citizens enjoy the right of political participation, the right to elect and be elected. In these conditions, I believe that a peaceful transition of political power is possible.

What gives you hope for the future?

The existence of freedom of expression and the establishment of democratic institutions. Also, I believe in the fact that our national army must be apolitical and pursue the national interests.

What you fear most today?

My greatest fear is that the international community may leave us. We saw what happened when the Russians left. Whenever the international community leaves us, women's rights, the freedom of the media, and human rights are endangered. I am afraid that the achievements of the past 12 years could come under threat.

What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan?

First, illiteracy and poverty. Secondly, administrative corruption breaks down the trust between the people and the government. Finally, all of the problems of a narco-market, including smuggling and addiction, are a present challenge to our society.

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 rule?

The people of Afghanistan think differently from how they used to. They value education and in particular the education of girls and women. Nobody wishes to have illiterate children. The people would not allow it.

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

During the Taliban's reign, my daughters were deprived of school and education. The Taliban took my son away on his wedding night. They shaved his head because he had danced and been happy at his own wedding.

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

Women are economically disempowered. The role that they play in the family is typically not valued economically. Women are also inhibited by fundamentalism against women, that is, the improper interpretation of religion. Finally, women are prohibited from exercising their rights, especially because they lack knowledge and awareness about their rights.

What are the major demands of women?

They want to see an equal and uniform implementation of the law and justice, have the right to access services equally, and enjoy the same rights and privileges as men.

Which sources and centers of power can be relied upon to promote women's rights and demand?

A number of the Members of Parliament, the Independent Human Rights Commission, and civil society activists.

What do you wish for your daughter?

I wish she will have the possibility to continue her higher education to become a doctor, serve her people, and control her own fate.

What have you done in your personal and professional life to fight against discrimination?
When I was an elected member of the previous Parliament, I played an active role in relation to the Law for Elimination of Violence against Women, the Law for the Personal Status of the Shiites and other laws. I reject discrimination within my home and do not allow others to discriminate.

Do you have a specific message?

The human rights of women must be ensured. The presidential candidates are obliged to take notice of this issue.

"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