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I am optimistic & believe that we will not return to the dark past

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by Abdullah Ahmadi - Programmes Director of Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA)

Abdullah shares his thoughts regarding his recent week at the London Conference on Afghanistan

1.You have been involved in human rights for many years. What types of human rights violations have you dealt with, and what do you think of the current human rights situation in Afghanistan?

I have been working to promote and protect human rights for many years. In different periods and situations I was involved with different human rights issues. During the Taliban I was providing reports on human rights abuse of Taliban and Mujahidin regimes. After the fall of the Taliban I am involved in human rights awareness raising, civic education, monitoring of human rights, transitional justice and advocacy for promoting of human rights values. Currently my work with CCA, a leading human rights organisation, focuses on women and child rights. I am involved in protecting of children and women at risk through shelters (safe houses) and building the capacity of administrative justice to improve the human rights situation in the county. I am a member of Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG) which is advocating for victims of human rights and families of the victims. Through TJCG we are working on fact finding, preparing of human rights abuse reports and advocating to implement transitional justice. We conducted several press conferences and request for the government and international community to not exclude war lords from power and we advocate for the publication of [the delayed] “Map of the Conflict” report which was written by AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission).

It is difficult work and most of the time we are threatened by war lords. Working with women and protecting of women at risk is one of the difficult jobs in Afghanistan. My organization runs five shelters in Afghanistan. We are involved with solving their cases and follow up their cases in the courts and most of the time we face a lot of problems from fundamentalists and others.

2.You came to the UK for a week for the London Conference on Afghanistan. Tell us what activities you were involved in.

I was invited by BAAG to participate in the Ayenda Conference and LCA. It was a chance to meet with some ministers and MPs of the British government, and I also met with and talked to some international community representatives such as a Director of USAID and civil society activists from European countries. It was a good opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas with international representatives and learn from their successful stories related to civil society work. I also found a chance to interview with some international media and share our ideas and explain the situation of our country. I visited from some historical places in London which was very interesting. I visited some places which I had seen in story and history books - I found London to be an old city with much history.

1.What is the best memory you have of your time in London?

I have a lot of the memories from the time which I was in London. I have a memory from the Ayenda conference in which I asked a question to the MPs about international support after 2014 - he mentioned that the UK will not leave alone Afghanistan after the withdrawal. He also mentioned that UK will continue its support to civil society. I also visited some Afghan activists in London and discussed their work done for Afghans. One of my best memories was the Conference reception at Lancaster House, where I caught up with one of my best friends after five years. He was studying in UK and he plans to return to Afghanistan after his studies. I had a chance to talk with Abdullah Abdullah and Hanif Atmar and explained to them our position paper and the role of civil society in the future of Afghanistan.

4.What were your impressions of the responses of the Afghan and British government responses as the Ayenda Conference. What hope have they given you for the relationship between Afghan civil society and its government?

During the conference and meetings with Afghan and British government authorities, I found that they are interested to work with and support civil society in Afghanistan. I found that the international community has a commitment to support and protect the decade of democratic achievements in Afghanistan. The Afghan Chief Executive Officer in the Ayenda Conference announced the support of the Afghan government for Civil Society and he mentioned that civil society is the fourth part of the power in the country. British MPs and ministers also announced their support to Afghan civil society which gives more moral [support] and hope for Afghan Civil Society.

5.From your perspective, what were the three most important advocacy messages raised in the Ayenda Conference?

  • International Community will support Afghan Civil Society and CSOs will be involved in national decision making

  • The role of youth and women will be considered in all process

  • Afghan government announced its support and cooperation with CSOs

6.What has your organisation been doing since returning to Afghanistan? How are Afghan CSOs following up the Conference?

My organization continues its work to promote and protect human rights and democracy values. Since returning from the conference we had four meetings with CS-JWG [the nation-wide Civil Society Joint Working Group, an integral partner in the London Conference plans] to follow up the Ayenda conference. We had a meeting with CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and requested that he implement the priorities which were promised in London Conference. I had several TV interview about the agenda and decisions of London conference. I had a meeting with youth groups and other civil society organizations about the role of civil society post-2014. We conducted a press conference on London Conference achievements and follow up. I am working to build a youth network among the youth activists, with a five year programme to encourage the government to consider youth needs and include them in decision making.

7.What plans do you have for further engagement with the new Afghan government in the coming months, and what would you like to achieve?

In addition to recently meeting Dr. Abdullah I also had a meeting with MPs to get their support for civil society. I have plans to follow up our requests made in the London Conference position papers through joint working and planning with CSOs and lobbying with government. Through the youth network which I established we will follow up the London Conference and we will continue close coordination with the new government related to human rights and civil society programs.

8.How optimistic are you about the future for human rights and civil society as Afghanistan enters the new era of the Transformation Decade?

I hope that the new decade starts with positive change for human rights and role of civil society in the country. But, there are a lot of challenges in front of us. The new National Unity Government with its new structure is starting its work with a lot of the problems and still we didn’t have a [approved] cabinet. The new terrorist group ISIS is a big threat for human rights and the people of Afghanistan. Despite all of these concerns and challenges I am optimistic and believe that we will not return to the dark past and we are moving to a shiny future. Our people support democracy and human rights which they showed by participation in the election and this is important for developing of our country. I am fighting for human rights and democracy and I will never give up my country to the enemies of freedom and human rights.