Afghans gather in Herat to share concerns, demand better living conditions

By Omar

Over 300 Afghans from the country's western region gathered to demand better living conditions and a stronger voice in determining their destiny. These young individuals from Herat, Ghor, Farah, Badghis and Nimroz provinces attended the gathering on December 3 in Herat city's Arg Hall. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- More than 300 residents of the western region gathered Saturday (December 3) to demand better living conditions and a stronger voice in determining their destinies.

Young individuals from Herat, Ghor, Farah, Badghis and Nimroz provinces -- half of them girls and women -- attended the gathering in Herat city's Arg Hall.

The Voice of the Afghan People Mechanism held the gathering to share with the international community Afghans' demands and challenges, especially those of the youth and women.

Similar gatherings will be held across the country to give people the opportunity to voice their views, said Abdul Rahim Khuram, deputy director of the organisation.

Hundreds of Afghans, including women, gather December 3 in Arg Hall in Herat city to demand a stronger voice in determining their destiny and to share their concerns with the international community. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Hundreds of Afghans, including women, gather December 3 in Arg Hall in Herat city to demand a stronger voice in determining their destiny and to share their concerns with the international community. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"We are collecting the views of residents of every corner of the country and sharing them with the international community," he said.

"We want to revive civil society in the country," he added. "Civic activities have nearly disappeared in the last year, but efforts are under way to revive them."

Women want to demand their rights through the revival of civic activities, said Masooma Jami, a civil society activist in Herat city.

"Civic activists are doing their part. I am optimistic that men and women together will create favourable conditions for a better future," she said.

"Although women face serious challenges and restrictions, the spirit and momentum built among women will change the situation," she added.

The goal is for women to engage in political, economic and social spheres as they once did, Jami said.

Women demand their rights

The women participating in the gathering called for the removal of restrictions on girls and women's work and education.

Afghan women and girls want justice, said Marzia Noorzai, 42, a women's rights activist in Farah city who participated in the gathering.

"We call on the international community not to ignore us," she said.

"We have been waiting for a year and a half for a decision and for the situation to change. This situation is no longer acceptable to us. Women have sacrificed so much to have a life free of violence."

"We want the rights Islam has given to women, like in other Islamic countries. We want our rights according to Sharia."

"Women want to get all their political, economic and social privileges. We do not want to be victims anymore. We demand our rights peacefully and graciously," she added.

If women have no presence in a society, that society is incomplete and disorderly. Women and girls must be given the freedom, independence and the right to education and work, Noorzai said.

The first demand of women and girls is to re-open girls' schools immediately, said Gul Afroz Ghafoori, 38, a women's rights activist in Ghor and a participant in the gathering.

Women must be included in all ongoing processes, she added.

"Women and girls must be given the right to work that they once had."

"Women are half of society and should not see themselves trapped in their homes. Most active women in Ghor had to leave the province because of restrictions."

"A responsible body must be established to protect the rights of women in the country," Ghafoori said.

"We women call on the world not to abandon Afghan women in such a critical situation and to support us in demanding our human rights," she said.

Attention to youth

Young Afghans at the gathering also demanded opportunities to participate in all critical decision-making processes of the country.

Neglecting women and driving them away from society will create a bleak future for Afghanistan, said Nadia Rezae, 24, a Herat resident who took part in the gathering.

"The youth should not be ignored ... their energy and knowledge should be utilised to improve the current situation," she added.

"We Afghan youth call on the international community to keep supporting us, especially the women, as it did in the past two decades," she said.

"For a better future, we have to change the current uncertain situation and we need support."

In the current situation, youth need support to escape psychological pressure and uncertainty, said Nazir Ahmad Qarizada, 27, a resident of Badghis who took part in the gathering.

"I graduated from the political science faculty two years ago, but I haven't been able to find work for a single day."

"I have tried hard but could not find any work opportunities. My family, my parents want to see the return on my 16 years of education and hard work," he said.

He studied with the hope of building his country and serving his people but instead became an unemployed burden to society, he added.

"I want to ... put my capabilities to use to build Afghanistan."

All educated young Afghans have high academic capabilities and, if supported, will transform society, Qarizada said.

Young Afghans are being forced to migrate by unemployment and uncertainty, said Masuda Karukhi, a former member of the Wolesi Jirga from Herat province.

"Our youth have lost hope and see a bleak future," she said. "Most of them have chosen migration, some of whom lose their lives on the borders with the neighbouring countries, and others drown at sea."

"The Afghan youth who have studied so painstakingly do not deserve such a difficult life," she added. "They must be included in decision-making, and they should have the right to choose their future."

The demands of Afghan youth must be heard and practical steps must be taken to address their problems, Karukhi said.

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The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should try to open girls' schools to the children of this land. These girls and women of this land have the right to be provided with any kind of education. Those who have not betrayed Afghanistan are the women of our country. When other Islamic countries allow the women and girls of their homeland to be educated and there are no restrictions on them, what are we missing from these countries? Education is mandatory for men and women, this is an inalienable right. Most of the Mullahs of Afghanistan were trained in Pakistan. Women work side by side with men. Security is provided in Afghanistan. Girls' schools should not be closed in this current situation. Gathering the women of the western zone in the city of Herat in a non-violent atmosphere is a very good thing. Women of the western zone demand their rights from the current government of Afghanistan, and they also ask for help from the United Nations or the Human Rights Office to open the gates of the schools. It is the duty of the Islamic Emirate to open schools' gates for these girls and to assign the women to their jobs. Most of the women are heads of their families whose husbands have died and these women are the breadwinners of their families. There has been no difference in women's clothes. It is still the same as it was before. So, let the students go to schools as before.


Afghans also have the right to live a better life like other human beings, and it is necessary to give them this right. Afghans are also human beings, so taking away or not giving human rights is an injustice. If it is given, it is more or less, but it is not seen as a human being at all. Now that the media is censored and the voice of millions of people in Afghanistan is silent, this is the first time I have heard that they have shared their problems at such a big meeting. The voice should be raised in the face of the issues, and the responsible people should listen to this voice and find a suitable solution. The living conditions in Afghanistan are very unpleasant, and people face a hundred kinds of problems.


We are human beings, but unfortunately, we violate human values in many cases. Perhaps one of the factors is that we are a generation of war; we were born in war, we grew up in war, and many of us were killed in the war. This is also a reason we forgive ourselves, but the truth is that we must now join the world's development caravan. Supporting the current system has many advantages for our Afghans because the same order governs the whole system. It was unlike before when one person ruled in Balkh, another ruled in Jowzjan and Faryab, and another in Bamiyan. One person was in charge in Kandahar and another in Nangarhar. Most of them were warlords and human rights violators and tried to continue their rebellion secretly from the center of Kabul. Unfortunately, the international coalition supported it, especially some embassies, including the United States. That is, one of the significant factors of the downfall of the republican system was the same warlords that were mentioned earlier. Of course, one important thing is that if the rulers of the current system would not respect human rights, women's rights, girls' education, and the rights of minorities and do not find a common language of understanding with the global community, they can do it again. That has caused terrible consequences for Afghanistan and Afghans, which may take years to compensate for. It is worth noting that the parents of terrorists (Pakistan and Iran) both want and are trying to increase the distance bet