Sheesha: Ahmadi, we are glad to have you in our program. Today is August 15, the day the Taliban entered Kabul. A year has passed since then. I want you to express your feelings to your audience. What image does August 15 bring to your mind?
Ahmadi: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Let me greet you and your dear viewers, listeners, and readers of the program. I think my emotional feeling is best displayed in a song sung by most people in cyberspace last year during the nights and days of the fall of Kabul. The lyric enunciated that the songless nights and unkindness of the time shall not last. Last year the hybrid space and public media were overwhelmed with this song. It can be the expression of the emotional sensation of a person in a heavy event like that.
My next point is that the fall of Kabul to the Taliban was a heavy and historic failure that the people of Afghanistan and the progressive forces who wanted and still wish for a fundamental change in Afghanistan faced. For these forces, this incident is considered a heavy failure. These two points, in short, are the expression of my feelings.
Sheesha: Doctor, in your opinion, during this one year, what kind of reactions have been expressed against the Taliban? I mean the responses we had at the local population level, the reactions that the elites of society had as a cultural and civil stratum, and the reactions of the international community. After all, the Taliban are a different phenomenon than all other images we usually have in our minds. How and at what level do you evaluate these reactions?
Ahmadi: If we look at the domestic level, the reactions against the Taliban, whether from the Afghanistan’s elites, political groups, ethnic groups, or the Taliban themselves, were not as strong as feared. That is, the intensity of the conflict from both sides was not as much as feared. For this reason, we witnessed a positive development.
The second point that I wish to note is that as the political elites of Afghanistan and the political circles of the ethnic groups, we are still living in the atmosphere of the Republic. It means that we have not recovered from the shock of defeat yet, and we think that we are still in the atmosphere of the Republic and the competitions of the Republic era. For this reason, many of the talks made by the elites are to criticize the past. We attack each other and our past deeds like a competitor. However, this critique is not in the sense of finding the core cause of the failure. Mostly, it is because we don’t like each other. We have conflicts mainly in the form of wrist-grabbing, taunting, and such rebukes. We are not going deep into the matter and looking at the fundamental causes of the failure. We do not see what happened in the last twenty years that we finally failed to use a tremendous historical opportunity properly.
The third point is that due to the influence of the atmosphere mentioned above, the political forces and the civil Society of Afghanistan have not yet been able to recover. That is, they have not been able to find a clear and correct understanding of the situation. They have not yet achieved a practical struggle standpoint. We still don’t know what we can do, what we are capable of, the best ways to bring about a fundamental change in Afghanistan, and what techniques are available to resist. We still haven’t been able to answer these questions.
To some extent, I can say that we haven’t thought about these issues yet. Many of us still believe that the way to fundamental change and transformation comes from outside; That is, if foreign countries or the regional powers decide, they can change the fate of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this view is still overwhelming.
We still haven’t reached this common point that transformation’s basic foundation lies in people’s views and decisions. The main reason for our failure in the last twenty years was that we did not make our own decisions. We thought that others had made a decision and were responsible for the outcome, and they will support us to the end. So we failed. We still believe the same. There has not yet been a fundamental change in our thinking in this field.
Regarding the countries of the world and the international community, I can say that their views on the Taliban, compared to twenty or twenty-one years ago, have embraced a fundamental change. Even though they have not recognized the Taliban yet, their views on the Taliban are highly modified. Now the Taliban is no longer labeled as a global terrorist band. On the contrary, they are somewhat seen as a responsible group. The international community is interacting with the Taliban, directly or indirectly, out of necessity or without necessity. The regional countries, even those against the Taliban in previous years and strongly supported the groups opposing the Taliban, have now changed their positions significantly. So one can say that the world’s view of the Taliban has changed drastically.
Sheesha: Doctor, in one year after the Taliban seizure of power, in your opinion, which sections of the society specifically suffered the most? What is the situation of the most vulnerable strata due to this development? How do you see the prospects of the current situation for these groups? For example, if this situation lasts for two or three years, what destiny do you foresee for them?
Ahmadi: I think one can say that most social classes of Afghanistan suffered from the development. Everyone is affected to a great extent of which I will point at some prominent ones:
First: The ordinary people of Afghanistan.
The ordinary population of Afghanistan wishes to respond to their basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and security. According to reports, in this field, probably more than 25 million people out of the country’s population are in urgent need of food; That is, they lack the basic needs of their lives. So, the local population of Afghanistan has suffered a lot. Why have they suffered? Because they do not have access to work and have lost job opportunities. With the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy, most people have lost their job opportunities. In this sense, one can say that the local population of Afghanistan has suffered a lot. It is impossible to find anyone who is not affected.
Second: Afghanistan’s women.
Under the Taliban regime, women are removed from the scene of society. Women do not have access to jobs and work. They are excluded indiscriminately. The girls who don’t go to school today are a generation that is missing their opportunity. Imagine a generation that loses its chance to study. During this one year, how much the fate of young girls who could have a different future is turned flipside. For example, many of these girls faced forced or early marriage. They got married unintentionally. They wished to continue their education, study, and create a promising future for themselves. They were forced to get married due to official pressure from the government and many other related factors, such as social and economic pressure. As a result, their lives were completely turned upside down. If we see each of these in detail, we will realize how much the fate of human beings is actually stuck in a swamp. It means that it has experienced a kind of swamp and a kind of darkness.
Third: The musicians and art groups.
The Taliban have removed Afghanistan’s musicians and art groups from society. They shut the doors to their education, university, school, and everything related to music and art. Those who had worked in music and art, and invested their lives in this field, were removed from the scene of Afghan culture and literature.
Fourth: The educated class of Afghanistan.
The educated class of Afghanistan is displaced chiefly. Because, as you see, the educated and cultured groups of the country, in addition to security and livelihood, also need an accessible environment in which they can freely study, think and express the product of their thoughts. They can teach, speak, write, deliver speeches and express their views in society. These fields were lost for this group as well. They have mostly left Afghanistan and become displaced around the world.
You know that the countries of the world do not need the educated group of Afghans to be attracted to their global labor market. So, there is no hope for the progress of this group in the countries where they have resettled.
Fifth: Afghanistan’s technocrats.
A group of technocrats had been educated in Afghanistan in recent years. They had grown their expertise, learned the work of governance, and learned administration and management. But now, they have turned to refugees around the world. Their experiences are of no use in the world. On the one hand, they face personal loss; on the other hand, the people of Afghanistan have lost their collective capital for governance and administration. All these are losses.
Sixth: Ethnic Groups and religious communities of Afghanistan.
Look at the ethnic and religious communities of Afghanistan. For example, the Shiite community of Afghanistan has been systematically removed and sidelined from the scene of power and politics based on their religious beliefs. Likewise, all ethnic groups of Afghanistan are sidelined based on the ruling group’s ethnocentric assumption and monopolistic strategy. In the same way, all other sections of the society, which are among the religious and linguistic minorities, have been wholly excluded. For now, a particular class has all the opportunities and sources of wealth at its disposal. The monopoly over the country’s wealth sources poses a significant danger threatening Afghanistan’s future. Afghanistan has three essential sources of wealth: transit, water and land, and mining. The Taliban have monopolized these three sources of work and wealth production in Afghanistan and will further squeeze their monopoly in the future. In this way, most Afghan people will be deprived of these essential resources of life and wealth.
Sheesha: Doctor, as a thinker with an intellectual perspective on the issues of Afghanistan, you might have seen signs in the society’s belief system that have given root to the emergence of a phenomenon called the Taliban. This has placed a tremendous intellectual challenge in front of all the educated people of Afghan society. What do you think is the most critical challenge that you, as a person, a member of the Afghan intellectual community, see under the Taliban rule? What challenges have the Taliban created explicitly for Afghanistan’s academic and civil strata? What challenges have the Taliban themselves faced that they might not have expected? What challenges has this group raised for the people of Afghanistan living in a specific geographical unit?
Ahmadi: First of all, let me briefly say something about the origin of the Taliban. I can say that every society is made up of different strata, which is an entirely natural issue. There are highly conservative strata in a country; others can be progressive, reformist, or revolutionary. Our country is also composed of these strata in different social layers. For the last one hundred years, whenever the idea of reformism or modernism has come up in Afghanistan, these two strata have faced each other.
Historically, there has been a fundamental conflict between these two strata. But in general, in the modernization process in Afghanistan, the secular governments gradually dominated the situation, gained relative dominance over public life, and created a balance between modernization and conservatism. Meanwhile, the direction of movement was towards modernism. The institution of the government became more powerful day by day. Higher education expanded. The culture of urbanization and communication with the world increased customary. The essential power was in the hands of reformist forces or those who wanted transformation in the Afghanistan’s society. They had all military, economic and political power in their hands. The conservative stratum and extremely conservative forces lived on society’s margins. They didn’t have control over the actual sources of authority. In other words, they did not have any essential power sources. Because of this, they had no power for social mobilization, and they could not create a change from the bottom to the top and prevent transformation.
The occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviets or the coup d’état of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan brought about a fundamental change in the country. As a result of this coup and the presence of the Red Army, the Afghan Jihad began. This Jihad created a potent kind of radicalism not only in Afghanistan but also in the world. In addition to having a domestic context, this influential radicalism also had an international context. Because according to the policy of America at the time, Islamic movements had to be supported against the Soviet’s Red Army to create a green belt around the Soviet Union. Within the framework of this policy, the Afghan Jihad was boosted to support radical Islamic groups or individuals who would join the Jihad and fight here. Then the literature of Jihad against the Soviet Union and the idea of Islamic resistance against the Soviet Union would spread throughout the region and the Islamic world.
This American policy caused the Afghanistan war to attract the attention of the entire region. Radical Islamic forces came to Afghanistan from all over the world. In return, they were welcomed as heroes in the airfields of their countries. The practical result of this policy was the wide spread of religious schools in Pakistan, where many young people from Afghanistan and Pakistan studied. Another consequence of this policy was that the same marginalized stratum and layer of society who were deprived of any means of power got organized in the shadow of Jihad. They got the power of guns and rifles and came to the center from the margins.
By the collapse of Dr. Najib’s regime, the Mujahideen failed to form a national government. Considering the chaos in the country at the time, with the energy of ethnicity, religion, and the direct organization of foreign intelligence, the conservative Taliban was established and imposed itself as a strong power in the field of Afghan politics.
As a result of this development, the vast army of motivated students of religious schools got organized. Then, according to the ethnic and religious incentives, the country’s widespread disorder, and Pakistan and other countries’ regional policies, an exceptional opportunity was provided for the Taliban as the highly conservative stratum of Afghanistan. They turned themselves into a superior power in the country and were able to fight with international forces in the last twenty years. At length, we witnessed their victory over the political system and their seizure of sovereignty in Afghanistan.
Now that this transformation has taken place. As a result, various challenges have been created, including some that you mentioned that the opposition forces of the Taliban have faced, and I will address them later.
But the first challenge the Taliban faces is that it has confronted a very diverse society, a generation that is entirely different from the past. The Taliban even cannot control this generation. We are currently living in the age of digital. In the digital age, no one control access to information and education. If there is a will, every family and every person can continue the flow of education and receive information in a self-educated manner. They can access up-to-date information, language, and knowledge and reach a solid level to preserve their individuality.
Let me underline that the Taliban is against individuality. They are at war with individuality. If the Afghanistan’s youths and all individuals, including boys and girls, maintain their individuality, they will dismantle the doctrine of the Taliban. Based on their ideology, the Taliban want to indoctrinate the Afghanistan’s people and the young generation of Afghanistan. They want it to become a natural phenomenon. Thus, by protecting the people’s individuality, the Taliban’s doctrine falls from efficiency. If the Afghan people preserve their individuality against the doctrine of the Taliban, they will create the biggest challenge for them. In my view, the biggest challenge of the Taliban is the society, the new generation, and the youth who want to have their individuality.
Another challenge of the Taliban is their financial resources. So far, regarding financial resources and income, Afghanistan has not reached a level where its national income can cover government expenses. This expectation has not been fulfilled ever since the past 150 years. In particular, it has not been able to provide the budget that a government needs to equip its organized army and police. Afghanistan’s revenues are not enough to equip an army of 100,000 soldiers. The Taliban claim that they can have an army of 100,000 soldiers. Domestic resources cannot finance this army. There may be weapons left over from American forces. But these weapons will soon be out of use in terms of technology and many other things known to experts.
In the same way, there are no sources of income needed to run a government in Afghanistan. Abdul Rahman Khan, who established a central autonomy- not independent- government in Afghanistan, was supported by the financial and military support of British India. This dynasty and tradition continued the same way during Zahir Shah, Dr. Najib, and the past twenty years. Afghanistan’s historical experience generally has a simple economic formula: your income does not cover your expenses, and you cannot rule without foreign aid. Thus, lack of financial resources is the second most significant challenge for the Taliban.
The third challenge for the Taliban is Global Legitimacy. The Taliban have a problem with global legitimacy. Because the Taliban ideologically do not accept global values. Ideology is critical to the top layers of the Taliban leadership, especially those who do not know much about the world and live in isolation. For example, they have not yet been able to solve the problem of girls’ education. Why? Because their ideology does not allow it. Their ideology, based on which they fought for twenty years and burned the schools, does not allow the girls’ school to be open. When they cannot meet minimum global standards of human rights and women’s rights, it is clear that they have a problem with the world. The world has a series of standards and principles. Ignoring the world’s standards and codes of values will be costly for the Taliban. It is true that the countries’ politicians pursue their interests and mostly do not abide by values. For example, to ensure their interests, they want to compromise with governments and countries that have problems in terms of global human rights standards. However, the nations of the world, the parliaments, and the public opinion pose certain red lines, and blatant violation of them will be highly difficult and expensive for the governments.
Therefore, global and international legitimacy is a significant challenge for the Taliban. As the Taliban cannot provide internal legitimacy in various ways, their international legitimacy is also problematic. These are the main challenges that the Taliban have.
The challenges that we have with the Taliban are somehow clear. For example, we can have challenges in different spectrums. We face problems in every life scene: For example, as a Shia, I am judged based on my religious beliefs and excluded. As a Hazara, I am prejudiced and excluded based on my race. As a professor, I am not allowed to teach, write or publish what I know and consider valuable and correct. All these are problems.
Sheesha: Doctor, the biggest challenge that the Taliban have created is that they have pushed Afghanistan to a primitive era in terms of its civic developments. They have undone all our achievements in Afghanistan’s long years of secular governments. They have pushed them back to the era of primitiveness. They have taken the government but have destroyed the structure of the governance. What challenges do you think the collapse of this government structure has created for the civil Society of Afghanistan? If we want to start doing something tomorrow, we must begin from a zero point. What significant challenges have the collapse of this structure posed for you and us as individuals?
Ahmadi: Let me say that the Taliban have not abandoned the entire system of the government. They are using the bureaucracy of the government in some cases, unfortunately, for repression. They have kept the body of the government’s bureaucracy for repression. For example, they have changed the Directorate of National Security into intelligence as a means of repression. Likewise, for them, the Ministries of Interior and Defense are means of repression. The Taliban have preserved the bureaucracy of the previous government in these fields but use them to suppress the people of Afghanistan.
At the same time, they have eliminated the structure of the government in specific other fields: They have broken the legal and executive structures that allowed the civil Society of Afghanistan to express themselves and to speak about their rights. They have destroyed the judiciary system’s configuration, have limited access to information, and consider public gatherings a kind of danger and threat. They hold a security perspective on public gatherings and treat them harshly. They have unofficially dissolved political parties and have removed the legal structure of parties in the Ministry of Justice. They destroyed the parliament and removed the legislative branch, where people’s representatives used to gather and legislate on behalf of the public. The parliament was functioning as a monitoring body of the government’s actions which the Taliban destroyed. They have weakened the academic independence of universities. They want to indoctrinate their views through these institutions and make everyone the same as themselves.
Be careful that civil society will lose its breath when these legal and executive structures are broken. Civil society breathes in the context of these institutions and within the capacities hidden in these institutions. It is good to pay attention to this point very seriously.
Let me also say another point to complete my words: All we express as setbacks or challenges do not mean that there is no capacity left in the country or there is no capacity in society at all. The Taliban indeed has the will to control, assimilate and suppress, but this will is not always successful. Because first of all, the Taliban is not an absolute and undisputed power that can do whatever it wants in Afghanistan. Because this group, anyway, has a series of international commitments. The minor responsibility it has to the international community and the minimum flexibility it shows towards the Afghanistan’s people is a capacity. It also creates accommodation for the civil society of Afghanistan. It gives them a chance to breathe and a chance to strengthen themselves. Afghanistan’s civil society should consider this an opportunity and use it for their improvement.
Another critical point is that we live in the age of digital. In the age of digital, no power can barrier access to information, neither teaching nor learning. These are the capacities that we can use. Another point is that the people of Afghanistan are engaged people of the world. They are global citizens. I think a famous American thinker has said that the people of Afghanistan are the people of the world. It is a people who live in the world. Many among them are aware of the world situation. According to this thinker, Afghans’ relationships and interactions with the world are more than American citizens. According to statistics, the average of travel, communication, and contact of Afghan people with the world is much larger than that of American citizens. These all create capacities that can be relied upon to overcome challenges.
Cultural Reaction of Society Against Taliban
Sheesha: One of the interesting phenomena related to the Taliban was the psychological and cultural reaction of the society to the orders and decrees of this group. The Afghan army resisted in some places due to the same support they received over twenty years. It is true that they fought as the soldiers of a system against the Taliban and were able to resist, in some places, or maintain their stronghold. But when the Taliban invaded the big cities and eventually reached Kabul, we witnessed a fascinating passive reaction against their victory. For example, in Kabul, where six million people live, no one shot a single bullet against the Taliban. It means that we were psychologically ready to accept the Taliban. Our reaction against the Taliban was not very serious.
In the same way, the society’s reaction was very significant, especially regarding the issue of women, women’s rights, the status of women, and the Taliban’s treatment of women. We saw that when women were removed from the government’s offices and excluded from the social and civil life of the society, there was not even a single protest from the Afghan male community. For example, we did not see anyone who wrote a Facebook status saying he doesn’t go to the office when the women don’t. Or when the women launched demonstrations and street protests, we didn’t see a single man standing in line with the women, even if he spoke to defend his right to be a citizen. It was astonishing, indeed. In other words, the women were left alone. They remained defenseless against the Taliban decision from the position of the government’s authority. Then we saw the issue of girls’ education. The Taliban banned more than one and a half million girls from 7th to 12th grade from schooling. However, not a single person was found in the society to say that if their daughter did not go to school, they would not send their son to school either. Or a boy in the community did not even write a Facebook status saying that when his sister did not go to school, he would also not go to that school in protest. All of them surrendered calmly, which was an acceptance of the orders of the Taliban government. I want to ask you what reality we see here in the cultural psyche of society. How do we evaluate the reactions within the patrimonial culture of the society that the Taliban represent? We can see that despite the changes of the last twenty years, or as you say, the hundred years of the secular governments’ functioning in Afghanistan, the society has maintained this rough structure of patrimonial culture and has not broken it in the society. The view of the society as a whole is what the Taliban represented, although a bit more extreme and violent. I wanted to seek your opinion from this angle. How do you examine the issue from this point of view?
Ahmadi: Well, let me start from the last part of your statement: Yes, the traditional culture in Afghanistan has not fundamentally changed or transformed. If there is a transformation, its rate is not very high. For example, recognizing the individuality of everybody has not yet been manifested in the literal sense. I can say this with full responsibility. There has never been such an effort to make individuality a dominant issue for a hundred years. As a result, respect to all individuals as independent, autonomy human beings has not become a prevalent issue in society, and it is still feeble. Despite all efforts, the institution of individuality in Afghanistan is fragile. That is why it cannot create a strong resistance. My point in this regard might help answer your question and fit its spirit.
But as to why the resistance against the Taliban did not occur, I assume you mean more collectively and in a group format. I think failure always has a steep slope. Of course, I am not good at understanding military issues. Still, I feel that when you are in a very high position, all ports which are the source of financing for the whole country are under your control. The big cities, highways, and even small cities are under your control. At this point, when the sudden fallout begins, it has a profound psychological impact. Some failures usually have a severe psychological effect. For example, when you lose all the ports which are the sources of income and see them fall into the hands of your enemy, it will weaken the hope of survival in your mind and diminish your power of resistance.
The general belief was that with the departure of the US, the Afghan government would maintain its power over the vital resources of Afghanistan for at least two more years. No one imagined that the war would reach the gates of Kabul, and the city’s defense would become the central issue. No one imagined that the ports, small towns, and highways would fall into the hands of the Taliban. When the collapses began, and the ports tumbled on a speedy scale, all lost their hopes of resistance. There was an overwhelming impression that there was nothing left to resist. This psychological failure made the victory of the Taliban confident.
Another essential factor was that the people of Afghanistan had somehow earned facilities and ease of life. A large population lived in Kabul and other big cities with wealth and property. They had an urban livelihood order. They didn’t want their life, wealth, property, and urban order to fall prey to the fire of war. This factor also weakened the idea of resistance in people’s minds.
Another problem was that there was no sense of ownership towards the government and the Republic in most people’s minds. This mentality was not formed in the last twenty years. Even this mindset was suffocated in the minds of people due to mismanagement, wrong ideas, and false literature that existed over the past twenty years. It was a fatal misunderstanding that we never separated the system from the individual. You have witnessed people questioning the whole system in recent months under the title of three-member Republic. We did not intelligently separate the institution from the individuals. We used to make the system a single bowl and condemned it under the title of three-person Republic. With these ideas, we couldn’t develop a sense of ownership towards the government and the Republic. There was no sense of ownership in the soldier, in private, and in the army to defend their property. There was no sense of ownership among the people. In the last twenty years, the Afghan rulers did not want and, in some cases, did not allow a sense of ownership to grow towards the Republic in Afghanistan. They considered the whole government a foreign project for their vested privilege. Of course, the outsiders incepted the scenarios of the last twenty years; but the people of Afghanistan could own it and take ownership of its process. We did not want to create this feeling in ourselves. That is why this heavy defeat happened without any resistance.
Sheesha: What do you think about the public reactions? Is it true that the general public treated the Taliban’s victory and the Republic’s defeat with indifference or optimism?
Ahmadi: It goes back to our typical perception of the notion of struggle. The idea is to either fight and win or surrender. We do not know anything called the third state, which is a civil struggle. Our understanding of civil resistance, which is costly, is feeble. Suppose there is a responsible and accountable government, and its suppression power is also weak. Then, we go out on the streets and say we are waging a civil struggle. It is not a civil struggle, indeed. It is a very common lawsuit that does not cost anything. Civil resistance has a cost, and your life and safety might be at risk. You might pay a heavy price in civil struggle.
We are unfamiliar with this type of struggle and don’t know its techniques, literature, culture, and theory. Our civil society was not trained or organized in this direction in the last twenty years, which is why the ongoing tragedy in Afghanistan took place.
Sheesha: Let me paraphrase my question by looking at the society with two categories: A) One which the Taliban now represent as a stratum cultivated in the society’s patriarchal culture; and B) Another group which is the women who are the targets of fierce and naked attacks by the Taliban. In a general glimpse of society as a mega picture, we did not see a reaction to support women, to look at the issue with a different culture, humane culture, against a purely male-dominant and patriarchal culture. For example, someone comes and says that if a woman is not in a government office, it does not make sense for me as a man to go to the office; Or, suppose that when my daughter does not go to school, my son does not go to school either; Or when my sister doesn’t go to school, I don’t go to school either. There was never such a reaction in society. Don’t you think this situation shows a kind of brewing and adaptation to what the Taliban have in their context, cultural origins, and society’s belief system?
Ahmadi: To some extent, what you say is true, but not 100%. I would say that several factors are suitable to consider all at the same time:
The first factor is what you have noted. Both the Taliban and many people have the same idea. For example, they say that what is the use of a girl to study? They don’t see the lesson and education of the girl as a basic need. Or say what the necessity for a woman to work is?
The Taliban do not recognize women’s education and work as a basic human need. This necessity is unknown to the Taliban and different layers of the people. Of course, it is impossible to judge people as a whole. One can say that this need is not recognized at different levels of society. However, to some extent, awareness has been created in parts of the community. I mean, a relative understanding has grown in Afghanistan. That’s why I speak cautiously about people.
Another point is that our knowledge of civil struggle is feeble. For example, we do not want a situation that is not desirable for us; but the question is what to do. Should we fight? Well, once we see ourselves in an extraordinary case where war is not an option and resorting to war is impossible. Well, what else do we do? We are stuck in response to what else to do because we do not have the necessary knowledge of civil resistance.
The third point, which I think is very important, is that Afghanistan’s women have had many opportunities to organize themselves in the last twenty years. Many who were called women activists were political activists, cultural activists, and civil society activists. They had a unique relationship and a powerful lobby in the world. But inside Afghanistan, they never thought of organizing themselves and did not do anything to mobilize the women around a mutual cause. There were many active women in politics, civil society, university, and administrative work. For example, several thousand women worked only in the government body; but they did not have the minor characteristics of collective behavior and organizational cohesion. As ethnic leaders were called tribal mafia, in the same way, among the elite women of Afghanistan, there was also women mafia. They ignored that women need organization and organizational representation and should take care of this fundamental need. No one thought that until women do not form their organizations, they would not be able to develop the concept of representation. Everyone stood up from every corner, saying that she represented women. But no one told on what basis she was a representative of women. Who appointed her? From which organization? Because there was no such thing. Women did not form their organized political struggle. If there was a struggle for women’s rights, after the collapse of republic, it was by a circle of committed and devoted women who worked and showed courage that will be recorded in history. This limited movements of the young girls in protest against the Taliban will remain in history. They will be the future heroes of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, we did not have an organized women’s movement with a clear purpose and goal. They did not see the challenge the Taliban posed against them. There was no organized group with clear language and literature against the challenge of the Taliban. For example, in some cases, a woman confronts a claimant and says, “I want my rights within the framework of Sharia law.” In the same context as Taliban, thinks, Talib also says that “Well, so go home .” She does not understand what she is saying at all.
Sheesha: Ok, Doctor. I want to look a little more specifically in this part too. Women have weaknesses because they lack organization and organizational skills. They are not familiar with the ways of civil movements. But I am curious to know your view on the cultural reaction we saw in the male section of society. They didn’t support women or their daughters as an integral part of their collective life. In your view, what is significant in expressing their overall reactions? Let me give an analogy: I am in my family. My daughter and son are sitting in front of me. One day someone tells me that your son has this privilege, but your daughter does not. My daughter is sitting at the table, and her tears are flowing. I see her, but I do not have any compassion for her. I do not share her pain. The next day, I calmly sent my son to school, and I thought, at least my son had gone to school. I don’t care if the girl didn’t go. What do you think this cultural reaction of the society shows in brewing with the Taliban?
Ahmadi: I said earlier that we had not recognized individuality as an essential factor. In particular, we have not accepted the notion of individuality for girls and women. We have not acknowledged their basic needs for education and work. As a ruling group, the Taliban are alien to this concept, which has not even penetrated their minds. Likewise, many sections of society do not yet accept women’s individuality. When you recognize a woman’s individuality, you also acknowledge her needs. You know that a woman needs education, work, and financial independence, and she is a person for herself. We have not recognized this right for our girls and women as necessary.
In contrast, we have admitted it to some extent for the male child. We believe that the male child has a future; he should work, get married, form a family, provide for his family’s expenses, and have a social position. We have recognized it for boys but not for girls and women. Our mentality affects our behavior and reactions, and it is not free of influence.
However, besides that, no one is willing to pay for other people’s rights. No one is willing to pay for their collective rights. For two reasons: one is that every human being avoids danger; Second, it is because we do not know about the civil struggle. Therefore, one did nothing to defend the rights of women and girls.
Sheesha: Well, Doctor. For the moment, we are dealing with a reality called the Taliban, who are the de facto ruler of Afghanistan. More than ninety-nine percent of Afghanistan’s geography, and therefore ninety-nine percent of the Afghan people, are practically under the control of the Taliban. When you don’t have a solemn organized protest across the country, the ruling group has enacted its sovereignty. My question is, how do you see the future of this rule? For example, suppose this situation continues with its police and intelligence aspect.
On the one hand, the Taliban has imposed a reign of terror and repression; on the other hand, it has monopolized all sources of wealth, and no one has access to it. How do you see the prospects of this situation within one to three years? What is your prediction if the Taliban rule lasts for three years?
Ahmadi : It is hard to predict, but the situation will become more challenging, indeed. Suppose the Taliban rule continues its current move. Then, it will create many problems such as poverty, lack of education and job, and lack of mental and psychological security. People fear that they might be arrested and detained by the Taliban intelligence for justified or unjustified reasons. No one defends your rights in the Taliban intelligence system. There is no supervision over the Taliban intelligence system to monitor and question them. All this causes a kind of psychological insecurity in society, and people do not feel safe. Especially those who have been in a social, cultural, or political position have lost their psychological security. All these are problems. The monopoly over the essential sources of wealth, such as transit, water, land, and mines, is also a danger. It is an enormous danger that threatens the entire people of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has become disastrous for the people of Afghanistan. A government that excludes ethnic groups and women from the body of political power weakens the people as a whole. When a specific group or clan monopolizes power, it makes others equally weak economically and politically. The more monopoly increases, the more powerless people become. All this is pain and suffering. The widespread unemployment is a crisis. You saw that the people poured out in Sri Lanka and forced the president to flee. Why? Because there was a lot of hunger. After the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka established a mono-ethnic government. It removed other religious and ethnic groups, mainly the Tamils and Muslims, from power. Therefore, the Western countries imposed sanctions and did not have proper relations with the Sri Lankan government.
Only China supported the Sri Lankan government while leaving it alone during the crisis. Interestingly, China has become a disaster in the world. The result was that the people starved, and the president ran away.
For this reason, the methods used by the Taliban are not the solution. They have brought absolute unemployment. It is hard to predict the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even in terms of security, this government has problems threatening its survival. Experience has shown that repressive governments lead to violence. This method of governance adopted by the Taliban is sterile. Without solving the long-rooted social conflict in Afghanistan or finding a solution, the Taliban wants to rule over the people of Afghanistan only by force. To the extent that the Taliban emphasizes intelligence and pressure, it loses its legitimacy in the mind and psyche of the Afghanistan’s people. The Taliban relies on sheer force: the exercise of sheer power and sheer violence. In Afghanistan or elsewhere, Such a government usually produces violence as feedback. If Afghanistan returns to the cycle of violence, the Taliban does not have the financial resources to control the country in a war situation. It cannot control Afghanistan in the field of war. Those religious motivations that existed for war are slowly disappearing and becoming cold and silent. The guerilla war that the Taliban carried out, based on religious beliefs, will no longer exist. It will be over, and only slight blows will destroy the Taliban’s rule. A regular and robust army with advanced equipment in Afghanistan needs financial resources. The financial resources are not at the disposal of the Taliban. Therefore, if they enhance the cycle of violence again, they will not be able to control Afghanistan.
Non-violent Civil Struggle
Sheesha: Doctor. You are one of those thinkers who proposed the theory of nonviolence and civil struggle based on the nonviolence approach. Your behavior, both intellectually and in terms of dealing with Afghanistan’s issues, was inspired by your theory. Do you think that this theory has a place in the context of Afghan society? I want to seek your views on this approach as one of the means that will solve the urgent and immediate pains and sufferings of the people. For example, will it end poverty, oppression, tyranny, and pressure from the people? We are facing a system that has robbed people of their fundamental rights such as security, welfare, and happiness. Thus, it is necessary to get rid of this tyrannical rule. Where do you think your theory of nonviolence finds its concrete examples for adopting approaches in the context of Afghan society? What should we do? How does the idea of nonviolence save us from falling into the cycle of continuous violence? How can this theory save us from the evil of Talib as a regime that is absolute evil? Where is the starting point that can both end this situation and create hope for the people that they are finally moving forward?
Ahmadi: Well, I have to say one more Bismillah here. In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful. I want to tell you that spirituality is the basis for the nonviolence struggle. Until spirituality flows in the soul of the society, the nonviolence struggle will not work either. We get our spirituality from Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. We believe in this, and we have this opinion.
The struggle for nonviolence is based on a philosophical theory about peace, human nature, and the world’s reality. It is hard to believe in nonviolence until a person strengthens that view in himself. The theorists of peace and nonviolence claim that world politicians, including countries based on liberal democracy, do not believe in their opinions.
The theory of war governs the current world. You see the war in Ukraine. It is based on the war theory that they determine their mutual relationships. They say that their rival fights, so they have to preempt. They say that so and so countries have such an intention; We must do so. Hence, the world revolves based on the theory of war and violence, not the theory of peace. Peace is on the edge of the issues. The idea of peace is on the sidelines, not in the text.
Those who support the theory of peace and nonviolence believe that if we give importance to this theory and make it the basis of our national, regional, and international policies, there is no need for war. Nations can defend themselves without war. For example, maybe there is a wrong person like Putin for whom no value is significant except power and power-seeking. Someone like Hitler may exist. But the solution to Hitler, Putin, and the like is not war. You can defend yourself in the best way with nonviolent social resistance. For example, in World War II, because India was under British rule, there was a fear that Japan would attack and conquer India. Gandhi said he would not have fought with Japan if India had been free. If Japan would come and invade India, I would wipe them out within a few days with civil disobedience and insubordination. With civil disobedience, and with not cooperation. The words of the civil struggle without violence are these two words: civil disobedience and non-cooperation. This theory is based on the fact that political power arises from people’s obedience and cooperation, even if this obedience and cooperation are through force. Political power originates from cooperation and obedience. Although people do not accept this power in their minds and psyche, the obedience and cooperation that people are forced to do manifest the reality of political power in a physical form. Thus, in all the techniques and methods pursued by nonviolent civil struggle, the endeavor is to destroy public obedience and cooperation. There is no government when public obedience and cooperation are non-existent.
Many scholars have studied and investigated the techniques of nonviolent struggle. According to some researchers, these techniques reach more than two hundred, a holistic course of knowledge requiring comprehensive study.
The tools and techniques of nonviolence may vary from one society to another. Some techniques might work in a specific context, while in another context, some other. We understand only two items from all these techniques: one is the demonstration, and the other is the strike. That is all. The Taliban, who have been fighting for the past twenty years, did not fight with only military approaches. A large part of their struggle was forms of disobedience and non-cooperation. The Taliban considered the road built in an area as a secular phenomenon. In their view, roads were considered the spread of secularism in Afghanistan. That is why they tried to destroy the asphalted roads and ban using them by the public. For example, they say a Taliban supporter traveled with his tractor when he reached the asphalted road. He saw the road. Since the use of the road was considered a form of cooperation with the government, it was a form of government approval. He threw dirt on the road and crossed it with his tractor. That is, he crossed over the dirt, not over the paved road. We used to say that the Taliban were against the development. It might be correct, but the Taliban interpreted their opposition not to give legitimacy to the government. They did not want to cooperate. You see that these techniques can be both practical and effective.
Another crucial point in nonviolent struggle is that in this method, we never create hatred and do not seek to eliminate anyone, including the Taliban. This way, we do not humiliate, insult, or dehumanize anyone, which paves the way for a new social contract. When your opponent cannot force his will on you, he will come respectfully and stand by your side, and you will sign a new social contract together. You should always leave this field open in the nonviolent civil struggle. These are fundamental techniques that we do not produce hate and do not seek to eliminate others. This way, you respect everyone, maintain everyone’s dignity and dehumanize no one, which is an essential custom in this type of struggle. In a nonviolence struggle, your opposite party does not feel left out, suppressed, or marginalized. If such a feeling is produced in him, fear will arise, and with the emergence of fear, he will fight and resist you until the last point.
Toynbee, the famous English historian, is quoted as saying that Gandhi did two things that succeeded: first, he made impossible for Britain to ruling on India. How do you rule when you face disobedience and absolute non-cooperation? Government is no longer possible in that situation. Second, it paved the way for England’s respectful withdrawal from India. That is, England was able to leave India without feeling ashamed and defeated. These two deeds of Gandhi brought about the victory of India and the movement he led. Then we see that when England left India, they became two nations united and cooperating. This act requires art.
Sheesha: Your point is correct. As a combative approach, you show more of the negative side of the movement: nonviolence, don’ts, and that we shouldn’t do certain things and shouldn’t produce hate. That is good. But what to do on the positive side of the struggle? For example, what should we do?
Ahmadi: Its positive aspect is also evident. You use techniques that have two results: first, it destroys cooperation, and second, it destroys obedience. When obedience and cooperation are lost, political power collops.
Sheesha: We had an axis for the struggle of nonviolence and its success in India’s experience, which was Gandhi. Gandhi became the spiritual center for the people of India and the Congress party, and this spiritual center created social cohesion. Society tends towards this approach in a coherent way and makes it practical. If you want to create a model of nonviolent struggle in Afghanistan, would it be good to tell us where we should start so that the people admit it in the streets, alleys, villages, and homes of Afghanistan? I am pointing at the positive side of the struggle.
Ahmadi: Of course, we need to teach nonviolent civil struggle techniques and methods. That means, first of all, we should train special people in more limited and focused spaces. The second point is that the tools and techniques of civil resistance are free from violence, and we should not be limited to specific examples. Right now, the people of Afghanistan need to preserve education for girls under any circumstances. Continuing education for girls is one of the methods and tools of nonviolent civil resistance.
Another point is that you should always have an alternative option in a nonviolent civil struggle. Destruction alone is not enough. When you tell people to do this and not to do that, you ask them not to give legitimacy to the government. However, it would be best if you also had a constructive plan to propose. You should have a program that will improve people’s economy, people’s education, and people’s daily life. We must have clear plans in these fields.
There are international resources for constructive programs in Afghanistan. The Civil Society of Afghanistan should be the platform for using these resources.
In short, constructive programs are very important and must exist at different levels: programs must be undertaken in the health, education, and economy sectors to empower people. When you want to paralyze the official device, you must have an alternative program. Of course, these are techniques that require more serious and concentrated discourses. It may not be possible to say many things in public discourse. There are many techniques. People use some of these techniques in their daily actions. In Afghanistan, many people in the cities have not given cultural legitimacy to the Taliban. They have expanded and protected the private sphere of their lives and have not allowed the Taliban’s wishes and thoughts into their personal and private lives, which is a kind of nonviolent resistance. These patterns will expand and become general and public by non- violence resistance.
We see signs of conscious or unconscious resistance in Afghanistan’s society in during last year. In some cases, these methods have been successful. For example, the use of social media has forced the Taliban to react in many cases. For example, they denied some of their positions and said that they had not said so. It has happened many times that a Taliban official has said a word. After the collective reaction on social media, the Taliban spokesperson denied it and said it was just a recommendation. All of these have an effect. It is not as if Afghanistan is a place where these methods have no effect. We need research on all the civil struggles in Afghanistan since last year to measure its impact, which might be more than many wars.
Sheesha: Doctor, I want to seek your view about a dominant approach in Afghanistan: the military approach. Due to the brutal violence of the Taliban, we can see that some people and social groups in Afghanistan have adopted the military strategy, once again, as a popular option. In your opinion, what cost does the military option visibly and concretely impose on the people, which is irreparable, and what damage does it do to the perspective of our desires and goals and make this perspective sterile? For example, suppose the military option helps us reach specific goals in five years; then, the result will still be counterproductive, and we will experience a cycle of reproduction of violence in another form. The approach to nonviolence and nonviolent civil struggle that you emphasize focuses on the core element of making a new social contract possible. How do you analyze the actual and prospective costs of the military approach?
Ahmadi: I think a person becomes desperate when he is under pressure. Then, the easiest choice is the military option which exerts force and physical means. One might think that the military option is challenging and requires more courage. I believe this is not the case. The military option requires less courage than the nonviolent civil struggle. You have to be very brave to assume the choice of nonviolent civil struggle. You must have the will to sacrifice at a very high level.
In contrast, the military struggle is straightforward and does not require so much courage. You pick up a gun and take a trench in a corner. It’s fifty-fifty: either you get killed, or you kill. Then you will own your home and wealth; instead of, for example, one car, you will earn caravans of vehicles.
As I mentioned earlier, another point is that if the Afghanistan’s people turn to violence, the possibility of violence spreading is very high, and the Taliban cannot control it. Let’s also remember that the Taliban cannot contain the violence that will become common again. Of course, the Taliban severely suppress their opponents, and they have a justification for their suppression too. But it will not be an effective alternative. This repression will be limited because the means of repression at the Taliban’s disposal are feeble. They do not have the power to provide an equipped army regarding finances and facilities. So Afghanistan is going towards collapse again. If it collapses, reunifying Afghanistan under the umbrella of a government system, a political structure that everyone would feel satisfied with, will be hard and far-reaching.
According to the scientific research that has been done, the possibility of winning the war is much less than the chance of winning the civil struggle based on non-violence. The result of this research shows that from 1999 to 2006 non-violent resistance had 70 percent success and war and violence only about 13 percent; from 1990 to 1999 non-violent resistance was more than 50 percent successful, while violent resistance 25 percent; from 1980 to 1989 non-violent resistance 53 percent and war and violence 38 percent; from 1970 to 1979 non-violent resistance 68 percent, war and violence 38 percent; from 1960 to 1969, non-violent resistance was 42 percent, war and violence was 22 percent; from 1950 to 1959, non-violent resistance was 33 percent, war and violence was 35 percent; from 1940 to 1949, non-violent resistance was 40 percent, war and violence was 32 percent.
This research was conducted by Ms. Erica Chenoweth in collaboration with Maria J. Stephan and was published by Columbia University. The title of their book, is “Why Civil Resistance works?”
In the context of Afghanistan’s society, I said that the Taliban could not contain violence. Afghanistan may collapse, which is not a success. The result is not a democratic, pro-civil, and human rights system. In the system caused by the war, those who have fought well have the superior power, not the ordinary people and all the individuals of Afghanistan. Research has also shown that achieving democracy through the war was perhaps fifteen to twenty percent, but it rises to more than seventy percent through nonviolent resistance.
Regarding the fact that there is a strong relationship between nonviolent resistance and achieving democracy, Jonathan Pinckney’s research is the reference for my words. In this research, he has shown that in 78 cases of nonviolent resistance that led to a change of power, at least 60 led to establishing a democratic system based on free elections. According to this research, since 1945, nonviolent resistance has 80% led to the democratic transfer of power, while only 20% by war. The title of the research published by Mr. Jonathan is: When civil resistance succeeds in building democracy after the nonviolent popular uprising.
Sheesha: Another popular option in Afghanistan has been the ethnic approach to politics. It is an ethnic approach that usually determines political fronts, political groupings, and political positions. In Afghanistan, since the Taliban represent the most naked form of a monopoly of ethnic power, they have also justified and incited ethnic politics on the other side. What is your assessment of ethnic politics as a traditional and old option within the society that has turned it into ghettos and taken it to pre-civilized polarizations? How do you measure ethnic politics in your specific context in the nonviolent civil struggle as a new theory? How can you put it together for a more significant effort to freedom and civility? How can you suggest that we go beyond ethnic politics? Or how can we consider the ethnic realities in the society to include some traces of civil approaches in politics and ethnic polarization? And how can we assess the realization of this theory possible in the context of ethnic politics?
Ahmadi: In this part, I will mention a historical experience before addressing the issue. The historical background that Pashtuns have in the field of nonviolent civil struggle is a very successful example. After Gandhi, the experience created by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the history of the Indian subcontinent was the most successful. This experience has been very significant in peace research. Many books have been written about Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan. The ethics and character of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan were also highly distinguished and unique. Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s success lies in a society where tribal violence and Pashtun zeal are the first words. He made these people patient, tolerant, and enduring folks. He trained those who did voluntary work and carried out constructive programs whose number reached eighty thousand members called Khudai Khidmatgar (literally “servants of God”). All of them did voluntary and constructive work. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan contained and moderated their violence and tribal zeal. They say that a policeman once whipped a Pashtun. All his body, from the back of his neck to his wrist, was scarred entirely. The Pashtun was patient saying nothing, his body covered with the mark of the whip. This Pashtun man comes to the office of a Servants of God, lifts his shirt, and says, “Have you seen throughout the history a Pashtun get whipped and bear it and not say anything?” This story shows a high capacity in the Pashtun community.
I have repeatedly said if, the negative capacity in violets people is very high, then when it revers to positive force, become very strong and effective. Therefore, Afghanistan has this capacity and experience in civil struggle without violence, in and we should give this historical experience serious attention.
Another point is that we have something called ethnicity. There is ethnic diversity in Afghanistan, and there is also a feeling of deprivation based on ethnicity politics. One can say that ethnicity forms the basis of Afghanistan’s conflict due to the nationalistic policy called postcolonial nationalistic strategy. In many postcolonial countries, the idea of government and governance lies in the centrality of an ethnic community. In Afghanistan and many postcolonial countries, the concept of the state has been formed based on one ethnic community. One ethnic community has become the owner of power, the owner of politics, the owner of culture, and the owner of the history.
In contrast, other ethnic groups have been considered the satellites. As if there is a supreme ethnic group and others revolve around the axis of this one, and they have to live on the edge of this group’s power, make decisions based on its will and finally have a small share in some of the affairs. This concept is the basis of nationalism in many postcolonial countries.
According to Mr. Edward Azar American-Lebanese thinker, this type of nationalism has formed the social basis of the power conflict in Lebanon and many countries in the Middle East, including Afghanistan. Therefore, we must recognize this fact. We must acknowledge this fact at the level of our elite discourses. The ethnics demand equal rights. In this context, we can refer to Johan Galton’s point of view, who believes that Afghanistan consists of six or four nations. He believes that we have 2000 nation in the world but 200 governments. It means that one government controls ten nation on average, which is unnatural and has been the source of conflicts. He mentions Afghanistan specifically and says that Afghanistan’s conflict also rooted in this reality. So Afghanistan elites must accept and pay attention to this fact.
Pay attention that you can never solve the problem of Afghanistan by making an ideology out of ethnicity, race, and religion. We need a unifying doctrine for nonviolent civil struggle. This doctrine is the ideology of equality, freedom, and justice. With this ideology, we must solve the problems of identity, ethnicity, language, culture, the way the government forms, and all such issues. Among other topics, we should discuss whether Afghanistan can be a federation. According to Galton, the best solution for Afghanistan is the Federation. He says that Afghanistan is like Switzerland. It is no different from Switzerland, and Switzerland’s answer is also Afghanistan’s solution. These are ideologies, justice-oriented ideologies.
We must accept these realities and change our political culture and our views. We should respectfully abandon the official idea that has existed so far so that all the elites of Afghanistan agree upon a new theory and ideology that is unifying. This view creates a solution and resolves the conflict. We must adopt a civil, peaceful, humanitarian, and patriotic approach.
Amendment of Constitution
Sheesha: One of the dangers in Afghan society in a very prominent way is that the country’s political geography is at risk. It is the last linkage point in Afghanistan. That is, we have moved so far on a path that we no longer have a common culture, we do not have a common language, and we do not have a common national identity. All do not share national interests, and all do not share a national destiny. There is only one shared geography left. And the current situation created by the Taliban’s violence may also threaten this geography. One day we may reach a point where this geography will break, and you will face disintegration. How probable do you think this risk is in Afghanistan? If this danger becomes serious, how can we prevent it with a nonviolent civil approach, civil compromise, or creating links of human connection at the macro level?
Ahmadi: Well, first, I must say that if the war continues, it will intensify the danger you mentioned. Two things have caused the severity of this situation: A) the policy of the Taliban; and B) the intensification of war and armed conflicts.
Personally, before the Taliban came to power and ruled, I was not well aware of the feeling you expressed. I used to see most of the people of Afghanistan as one unit, and I said that these people could not disintegrate. The geography of Afghanistan could sustain. People are intertwined and have a lot in common in their lives. But the Taliban’s policies have emotionally, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically divided the Afghan people.
Let’s note that the wrong policy in governance scatters and disperses the people. It is the wrong policy that exacerbates the crisis. The conflict I mentioned has intensified as a result of the Taliban government. Hence, the policies of the Taliban will intensify this conflict, and if war breaks out, this conflict will intensify even more. We must unanimously say that there should not be a war in Afghanistan. But this desire and our ideal are not necessarily realized in the reality. We must choose the civil and nonviolent struggle so that war does not happen. Now, anyway, the war has happened on a specific scale.
Let me repeat that the issue you mentioned has two aggravating factors: Firstly, the policies of the Taliban, and secondly, the intensification of war and armed conflicts. These two factors lead Afghanistan to the same danger you mentioned. Nevertheless, I suggest we reconsider our views and behavior as soon as possible. In particular, the Pashtun elites need a deep and honest revision. I mean the elites who are Pashtuns, but they disagree with the Pashtun policies of the Taliban and consider it harmful to Afghanistan. The Taliban, who make mistakes or walk in the wrong directions, should be left aside. I am addressing the Pashtun elites outside the Taliban’s sphere of power. They should reconsider and agree with the Afghanistan people, with the country’s political elites, and join the political movements on national discourse and a shared national axis point. They should abandon all the traditional policies of the past. If they agree to a discussion on the axis of justice and fairness, comply with a fair scientific study and conform to a common national axis point, I am sure that Afghanistan will find its way out. In that case, the sense of solidarity and belonging will increase, the literature that reinforces this process will grow in society, and the notion of solidarity will come into existence. This approach and policy become an alternative to what the Taliban say and do. I hope the Taliban will also join in this process one day.
Sheesha: Doctor, for the moment, we have a semi-agreed-upon document, though symbolically, called the Constitution of Afghanistan. This document can probably be the ground rule which will help us reproduce a new social contract in the country or to connect these disjointed fabrics in one place. For a mutual ground to stand on, we need a central or mother document, the Constitution of Afghanistan. This document contains some fundamental civil and democratic values. For example, a government that can have an inclusive structure, have democratic exercises, and give room to mechanisms to monitor power and ensure the check and balance in the system, or at least provide the grounds for power distribution. You were once a member of the Independent Commission for Monitoring the Implementation of the Constitution. In the past twenty years, because of your official and practical positions and roles, you might have noticed some gaps in this legal document which finally turned the government into the most corrupt or inefficient administration. After twenty years, the government and people fell into the grip of indiscriminate violence, which was more severe than the violence of the pre-law period. If you wanted to list some of the most critical loopholes in the Constitution that made this law ineffective and the political system ineffective, what were these loopholes, and how would you classify them?
Ahmadi: Before I state the loopholes of the Constitution, I want to say another point as a preface. Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s economic, cultural and political infrastructure is insufficient to create a successful system in the country. Even if we wish to have the best Constitution, it is still unclear whether it can succeed with these political and cultural infrastructures. I say this because we do not have an institution that can manage the processes and have acted poorly in creating such an institution.
For example, the Independent Election Commission is an institution that monitors and leads a process. Similarly, the independent judicial system effectively monitors and reviews the proceedings. We have a problem in creating these institutions. We have a problem constructing political parties that organize people on the axis of thoughts, ideas, and programs. When we have problems in these areas, no matter how well our Constitution is in writing, it was not clear that it would succeed in these twenty years.
The most important thing is the lack of that sense of ownership that I mentioned earlier. When people do not have a sense of ownership towards the system or this sense is weak in them, the problem increases. The ordinary people of Afghanistan do not understand the difference between a democratic and a non-democratic system.
Considering these problems and claiming that if our Constitution were so and so, we would have succeeded makes our claim a little groundless. Based on these points, I would like to point out where the shortcomings of the Afghan Constitution were.
The first defect is in the presidential system, especially with the very high power of the president and the concentration of power in the presidential office. This concentrated power caused people to say in the last months of the government that it was a three-member Republic.
Another shortcoming is that there is no independent judicial process in our Constitution that guarantees the observance and implementation of the Constitution. There was no independent judiciary and process to ensure the performance of the Constitution. The Supreme Court had a weak power in monitoring the laws, which could not create a judicial guarantee for implementing the Constitution. We needed to form a Supreme Constitutional Court. There is a constitutional court in Indonesia and Turkey at the level of Islamic countries and in Germany as one of the western countries. These courts ensure a robust judicial process to enforce the Constitution.
The third shortcoming is that we do not have local governments in our Constitution that are responsible and accountable to the local people. Instead of representing the people and being accountable to the people, the local administrations were representatives of the president in the Palace. For this reason, we need a transparent, responsible, representative local government. There was no such thing in our Constitution.
In my view, the fourth shortcoming is in the definition of national symbols. Afghanistan’s Constitution has defined the national identity based on the same doctrine I mentioned earlier as the postcolonial nationalist ideology. The Constitution is out of balance in this area and has not relied on a comprehensive national identity. In particular, we have a problem in this field that was unnecessary. For example, the Constitution says that every person in Afghanistan is an Afghan. It was not necessary to highlight a title with ethnic roots and descent. In practice, it became the source of creating problems for us and weakened our cohesion. We could write that everybody who has the Afghanistan nationality who is the citizen of Afghanistan.
Regarding language issues, we have maintained the superiority of the Pashto language in the Constitution, which manifested the same policy adopted during Zahir Shah’s dynasty based on ethnic nationalism. We should have removed these defects in the new Constitution. But we kept them, which also created a problem and needs a fundamental change in the future. Persian is an interethnic language and should return to the same place it had during Amanullah Khan and Nader Khan until to 1964. The Persian language has a rich literary history and is the cultural pride of Afghanistan. It should have its place in the Constitution. We should also strengthen other languages and take coherent and scientific programs for their development. By amending these defects in the Constitution, we will find more coherence.
Sheesha: In your words, you emphasized individuality. The civil democratic system lies in individual rights. The individual’s rights are the same as the human rights we are discussing now. Human rights are the rights of a human being, which are indivisible. In your opinion, were there any gaps and deficiencies in the Afghan Constitution in providing human rights? Or do you think the Constitution has any flaws in this regard?
Ahmadi: Regarding human rights, the Constitution has been drafted well and has worked well. With the current cultural situation in Afghanistan, there is no problem with the provision of individual rights in the Constitution. However, as I said before, in protecting individual rights, we need a judicial system that creates a kind of judicial guarantee to observe, safeguard and secure these rights. This point is significant, and we, unfortunately, face the lack of this in Afghanistan.
Guaranteeing individual rights within the framework of institutions is achieved in two ways:
A) through the Constitutional Court. If you want to defend the fundamental rights of citizens at the constitutional level, the Constitutional Court can play this role. Courts and tribunals do not use articles of the Constitution directly. They usually use ordinary law instead and create judicial guarantees to enforce ordinary laws. Still, the fundamental rights of citizens, stipulated in the Constitution, can be defended at two levels: at a level where they appear within the framework of ordinary laws. In other words, for those rights to enjoy some guarantee and to be observed and implemented, we will enact and enforce the relevant laws in line with the implementation of those fundamental rights and create a kind of judicial guarantee, which is a way to secure people’s rights.
B) The second way is to create institutional guarantees for the implementation of the fundamental rights of citizens. for example, when the government ignores them in its practice, when lawmakers ignore them from their legislative authority or enact a kind of law that violates the fundamental rights, or when someone violates them in the implementation stage, we need the Constitutional Court to protect the constitutional rights. Citizens should defend themselves at that level, and every citizen has the right to protect their rights before that court. The constitutional court must have broad power to provide every citizen with due protection. We see such courts in Indonesia and Turkey and in Germany. We need this kind of judicial system in Afghanistan too. We should be judicially strong. Judicial independence must also exist, and our judges must know people’s fundamental rights. The legislature must enact laws to ensure citizens’ fundamental rights. We have been weak in all these areas in the last twenty years. Our judges did not have a strong understanding of the fundamental rights and could not interpret and apply the laws in this direction. We did not have a constitutional court. For this reason, we did not have a judicial system that could defend the fundamental rights of citizens.
There was an idea that it had to be completed and could be modified. After all, this was our weakness for the last twenty years.
Sheesha: Doctor, we have reached the end of this conversation. Suppose there is a movement in the society that adopts the theory of nonviolent civil struggle as an alternative option against the traditional and common approaches in the community. If the organizers of the movement are those who pledge to carry out the same course and work to realize it in society, where do you see the place of Dr. Amin Ahmadi in this movement? And what commitment do you take to manage, promote and strengthen this movement?
Ahmadi: I am just an ordinary member of this society. I try to be a writer and a teacher in this field. I wish to be a teacher to help this perspective be well understood, scientifically and practically, with its various dimensions.
Let’s put our honesty and goodwill towards everyone, the Taliban and non-Taliban, at the forefront of our activities and plans.
One of the characters whose book I translated, named Michael N. Nagler, narrates a hadith from the Prophet of Islam. This person is a Christian but has acquired Buddhist/Hindu tendencies. In some places, he has said that I am a Hindu, but I was not born in a Hindu family. This person is immensely interested in Eastern religions and has studied these religions. Islam and its rules are vital to him. I could not find the hadith he narrated in Islamic sources. The hadith he narrates is that the Companions asked the Prophet whether they should help everyone. The Prophet replied: Yes, help everyone, even the oppressor. Companions once again asked how they could help the oppressor. A tyrant who is a tyrant, and if they help him, will it not be an evil act? The Prophet said no, help the oppressor to prevent his oppression. When you stop the tyranny of the oppressor, you have helped him.
We should try to make it a dominant view that everyone is human and changeable. No one is a demon. If this view becomes a common belief, there may be a change in the Taliban’s perspective too. They may also understand that no one is a demon and that we can all live together and have common ideals. I hope that they will also reach this conclusion.
Sheesha: How optimistic are you that the Taliban will respond positively to your voice? Do you believe that someday they will conclude that when someone is ready to accept them as a reality of the country, they should also admit him as a reality and enter into an equal conversation with him? I want to know how optimistic you are about the Taliban.
Ahmadi: Based on the fact that humans are fundamentally changeable and the possibility that the all-encompassing spirituality in the world will permeate the mindset of the Taliban, I am not very pessimistic. Because the Taliban are religious people, and if the religious motive in their perspective changes positively, their attitude and behavior will also change. For now, this motive is in their mindset in its destructive form. Does that shift in their motivation take place? I hope so. But this change requires social pressure. The realistic point of view is that no fundamental change has come about without the power of the people, without the balancing force that the people create. The power of balance created by people can cause the inner layers of Taliban to change as well.
Sheesha: Thank you, Dr. Ahmadi, for your time.
Ahmadi: Thank you, and I send gratitude to the souls of all those who died in the cause of equality and freedom in Afghanistan, especially the oppressed soldiers of Afghanistan in the last twenty years.