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Rafi Behroozian: 'I Strongly Support the Media Revolution'

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Rafi Behroozian was born in Herat in 1978 and lived in Iran as a migrant for 23 years. He returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. In the last decade he has been a musician and audiovisual media activist. He is the founder of the Daf Cultural Centre producing and promoting music, film and arts.

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Photo : Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA / Matthieu Hackière

Have your human rights ever been violated?

It depends on the definition of my rights as a human. As a citizen of Afghanistan, surely my definition is totally different from a definition of a citizen in the First World. Notwithstanding any definition, I do not see any place for my rights or for the rights of others each time that "His Highness," the president, calls the people who murdered my compatriots our "brothers."

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

The achievements of this era are unprecedented in comparison with the previous era. Freedom of expression and the defense of the rights of minorities have never happened before. The media revolution has played an enormous role in aiding the intellectual development of our society.

What gives you hope for the future?

I strongly support the media revolution. I believe the only way we can achieve an independent and well-developed country is through raising the levels of awareness in society.

What do you fear most?

As someone who has experienced the bitter taste of the Taliban regime, my greatest fear is the possibility of losing all we have achieved in the past few years because of the unclear policies of the government.

What are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan?

The question of ethnicity is a structural challenge in Afghanistan. In regard to social issues, there is lack of trust and sense of responsibility towards one another and towards the country. We do not believe in any element that unites or federates us together in this land. Everything is hidden behind a curtain of ambiguity. We are proud of our 5,000-year history, but we have lost the game to a 50-year-old country, by which I mean Pakistan. In the cultural sphere, our problem is lacking a clear definition of culture. Indeed, we have an illusion called culture. Aside from the destructive impact of the war on the current situation, we need to redefine "culture." Our national identity and glories, culture of work, culture of citizenship, so on and so forth could be the most important constituent elements of the society and its culture.

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?

Our society is not an intellectually independent one. It has not taken decisions for itself; others have always decided on its behalf. But nonetheless, I believe that the young generation of today will not be prepared to accept such a dark and evil scenario.

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

My bitterest memory concerns my mother, who had a stroke in Herat a few years ago and fell into a coma. Doctors in Herat gave up on her and suggested she should urgently be sent to another country with better health facilities such as Iran. Obtaining a visa for Iran is in itself a challenge due to uneasy relations on the issue of Afghan refugees and migrants. Despite all our efforts and the emergency unfortunately, her visa was issued only two weeks later.

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

The first factor is the lack of public knowledge about women and their capabilities. The patriarchal society views women for their benefits only. In many instances, it is the families themselves that prohibit women from participating in society. Several centuries of historical determinism and a second-sex attitude towards women have had such an influence that today women need to be reminded of their capabilities and made to believe in them. Extremists who prohibit women from participating in the society in the name of "history" and "religion" are another deterrent factor.

What do women want?

I don't know what women want. However, I must say in one sentence that women must enjoy, without the least discrimination, all the citizenship rights that men enjoy.

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

To my knowledge, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, UN Women, and the increasing number of young and informed female activists are are reliable sources of action. Promoting role models, particularly prominent and successful women, can speed up the awareness-raising process for women about their rights and role in society.

What do you wish for your daughter?

I wish that nobody would harass her on the way to school, poison her because she is studying, or throw acid at her face. I wish that she will not immolate herself. These incidents have been common during these years.

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

In my work, I have not done anything worthy to mention, but I have cooperated with institutions of young people to implement their projects for women, examples of which are the concert of 1960s music together with the late Homayoon Honar in collaboration with the Hadiya Women's Group. I co-filmed a documentary entitled "EYE (I) Witness, on voices of victims of war. I need to do more to be worthy of all the good guidance and sacrifices made by the women and mothers of my country.

Do you have a specific message to share?

I do not have a message. However, on behalf of men, I wish to thank all the mothers and women who did not play any role in destruction and the war and remained loving mothers.

"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