Martin Gerner, freelance journalist & correspondent, reports from Afghanistan
Mittwoch, 10. Oktober 2012
"Not chronically poor"
This interview with Afghan MP and presidential candidate Fawzia Koofi was published today in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel and can be found here. It comes a day after the new study of the Crisis Group and its scepticism and the statements by the ICRC, but was recorded shortly before
Fawzia Koofi is so far the only female candidate for the upcoming Afghan presidential elections in 2014. Born 1976, a married widow with two daughters, she has worked as an English Teacher and Unicef Officer for Child Protection in her home province of Badakhshan, for which she is a member of Parliament since 2005 and women affairs activist. She is critical of the peace process the way the Afghan government understands it and of the timeline of the drawdown of the international forces in Afghanistan.
-You are the the 19th child in a family of 23 children. Did this teach you how to fight for power?
Certainly. If you come from a big family like me you learn how to become a leader. Especially as a girl you have to learn how to be visible and stand up against the elder members in the family.
- You will run as a presidential candidate in 2014. Let us dream for a moment: what would you change if you were to win?
Why dream? Why not think of it as a reality. My focus basically will be in two areas. One is improving the wealth of the Afghan people. Afghanistan is not a chronically poor country. We have lots of mineral wealth, something that the current government has not been able to use. We basically rely on foreign aid. What we need is a real transition to develop the potential of our minerals, while creating accountability and rule of law at the same time.
- This means reducing corruption. How do you want to do this?
I think we need to be role models as leaders ourselves in the fight against corruption. The fight has to start from within our own families. In doing so credibly this could affect the public sphere. At the government and top level where we have lots of cases of corruption, nobody has been sentenced up to now. This needs to change.
- What do you want to do for women?
This is my cause. Women are 55 percent of the Afghan population. They can make a difference in the coming elections. We speak of them as the forgotten half of the population. But let us remember that in 2004 forty-four percent of the women voted for president Karsai. He got his legitimacy largely from women, only to forget them right afterwards again. I think women rights have become a matter of revenge in this war. Taliban try to undermine whatever the international community and the Afghan government consider a success in this field. Recently there have been horrible cases of violence against women. The case of Najiba for instance, a woman who was shot dead in front of a public crowd in an area controlled by Taliban. Part of the people around were cheering as she was killed. This is not part of my identity and culture.
- Do you think you can change things as a female politician against society and tradition?
Fighting against the wrong aspects of tradition certainly needs a long time. It is not a matter of overnight change.
- Many Afghans think that the withdrawal of international forces comes too early. What is the fear?
The fear is that in leaving, the Taliban might come back. We see a sympathy for Taliban in parts of the Afghan government also. Some elements have an interest to bring them and other insurgent groups back to power and undermine the electoral process.
- Are you afraid that the west might give up Afghans?
Yes. That is what it is all about. The western countries have come to Afghanistan to bring security and stability. Now, twelve years later, where is this security ? Withdrawing too early makes the situation worse while the Afghan institutions are not able to become strong and stable.
- Will the Afghan army survive the withdrawal?
There are problems in this respect. The international community only started to pay attention with view to establishing strong security forces in 2008. But four years are just too short to stand against a phenomenon like international terrorism. Also, the salaries of the Afghan security forces are nearly exclusively paid by the international donor countries. So a withdrawal, also in a financial sense, might seriously affect the stability of the newly built Afghan forces.
- Do you see an economical crisis ahead?
Yes, very much. Up to now, the flow of international donor money has created a certain amount of jobs. Most of this money actually leaves Afghanistan again through other channels. But now, many people will lose their job. If they have no alternative, they may become criminals or fundamentalists. I have seen some of my friends, young university graduates, who came and asked me for a job. I could not help all of them. Later, some of them had joined the Taliban.
- There has been a growing number of so called insider attacks recently, with Afghan security personnel killing their international counterparts. Why is that happening?
The policy of screening new recruits in the army and the police is very weak. Sometimes guarantee letters are just issued randomly without any control for anybody who wants to join the forces. It happened more than one time that people would come and see me with a guarantee letter asking me to sign it. They would claim that they are from my constituency. Many of my MP colleges would sign these letters without knowing who these persons actually were and what their affiliation to the Taliban was. And there are other cases where a lack of culture and tradition is involved. Most of these cases stem from arguments between both sides. Because of not respecting each other, or the other's belief. Especially in the Afghan context of relative absence of education, people tend to react more aggressively. On the other hand, a better training for international troops would be good before they come to Afghanistan. They should know more about the cultural sensitivities of Afghans rather than to cross the red lines.
- For example?
They should be taught how to respect the holy koran for example. Or, directed towards Afghan women, not take pictures without permission. So actually the same things that we demand in any human society. Sometimes foreign troops think that because they come from abroad, Afghans are nobodies to them. If they showed more respect, clashes could be avoided.
- We have witnessed an eruption of violence following the recent anti-Mohammed film.
Where do you stand in the dispute between freedom of expression and religious sensibility?
We are living in a global village. We all have rights and responsibilities. Freedom of expression needs to be dealt with responsibly. Not with the aim to create clashes. The filmmakers in question could have addressed the issue in many other ways than the way he actually chose. I strongly condemn the disrespect of any religion. But I also condemn outbursts of violence that occurred.
We just should not give reasons to those who are looking to destroy in reaction. In Afghanistan luckily the negative consequences were lesser than in previous comparable cases.
This is an independent blog on Afghanistan. I have been working regularly in Afghanistan as a freelance reporter and correspondent mostly with national German media in the past ten years. I've also been a trainer for a new generation of Afghan journalists and with organisations of the Afghan civil society, last not least an guest author with AAN Afghanistan Analysts network. All photos on this page are from the author, unless signaled differently. Reproduction in any illegal form is prohibited. This blog comes in English and in German language.
Dieser Blog versteht sich als ein unabhängiges Informations-Angebot zum Thema Afghanistan. Als freier Autor und Korrespondent arbeite seit Anfang 2004 regelmäßig am Hindukusch für deutsche Medien und ARD-Hörfunk, daneben vor allem auch in der Ausbildung afghanischer Journalisten/
-innen und der afghanischen Zivilgesellschaft. Der Blog versucht u.a. Stimmen von Afghanen stärker in die Debatte einfliessen zu lassen. Fotos in diesem Blog stammen sämtlich vom Autor soweit nicht anders gekennzeichnet. Das Reproduzieren oder die Verwendung in anderen Formen bedarf der ausdrücklichen Zustimmung.