Published on 24 Mar 2012 at 11:41
Afghanistan, with its diverse ethnic groups and many different languages has often experienced ethnic conflicts, which in turn have led the country into civil war over the past decades.
Cultural analysts argue that despite the existing ethnic and linguistic conflicts, there are many common cultural values that can play an effective role in creating convergence and peaceful coexistence among Afghan people, if those values are embraced and built upon.
According to analysts, prolonged civil war and the government’s exploitative approaches to cultural issues have cleaved ethnic divisions and misunderstandings among the Afghan people.
During Afghanistan’s civil war, political factions exploited cultural issues by fomenting discriminatory attitudes and ethnic divisions for their own political gains. As a result, any public discussions involving cultural issues, including religion, ethnicity, and language are viewed as politically motivated or intended to be divisive.
Metra: “By increasing people’s awareness
about Islamic values, we can establish a
peaceful coexistence among Afghan people.”
Despite these challenges, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Afghanistan needs fundamental changes to cultivate a cohesive political climate by strengthening convergence and coexistence among its different groups.
Analysts explain that identifying and emphasizing common cultural values and norms is a central component for opening the doors to national, regional and international convergence and unity.
As Afghanistan’s diverse groups move forward to forge channels of communication and cultural relations among each other, these relationships require a common understanding. This demands willingness among different groups to root out the causes of discord and to identify mutually shared cultural norms.
Many analysts point to religion and language, as common cultural denominators, which can play key roles in creating convergence among the Afghan people.
Syasang emphasizes the need to establish a united culture among the people of the country. “Afghanistan is at a critical juncture,” he says. “Cultural convergence needs to be supported by a number of individuals and organizations. All individuals, organizations, and political factions should make every effort to open the door for the nation’s unity.”“Fortunately, common cultural values can be used to shed light into the dark crevasses of the country’s current crisis,” said Dr. Sabor Syasang, a poet and cultural anthropologist.
Syasang: "There are many common cultural values
including freedom, patriotism, multi-language use of
Pashtu, Dari, and Uzbek."
“There are many common cultural values including freedom, patriotism, multi-language use of Pashtu, Dari, and Uzbek, music, respect to human beings, and other common interests that can play a very important role in establishing convergence and unity between the people of Afghanistan.”
According to analysts, increasing public awareness and attention to common religious, language, historical, and social values will lay the foundation for a stronger cultural convergence.
Habibullah Rafee, a member of Afghanistan’s Science Academy, believes that people of Afghanistan have many religious, historical and cultural common values that link them. “Despite the decades of civil war in Afghanistan, the majority of people had peaceful coexistence in the country,” he said. “In spite of the efforts by our neighboring countries to create conflict among the people of Afghanistan, we have experienced periods of peace together because we have common cultural values.”
Rafee: “In spite of the efforts by our neighboring
countries to create conflict among the people of
Afghanistan, we have experienced periods of peace
together because we have common cultural values.”
“Peaceful coexistence, as a common social value, has always been a topic of sociological discussion,” said Maryam Metra, a poet and cultural activist. “This discussion is presented in societies where different values and cultures come together to create a united culture to facilitate social life among people of a society. In my opinion, the role of culture and its effect on our social behaviors can play key a role in creating harmony among Afghan people.”
Nevertheless, there are several barriers which curtail culture as a tool of unity in Afghanistan. Syasang points to the misuse of culture as political tool as the primary barrier to supporting culture’s role in uniting in Afghanistan.
According to Syasang, the prevailing practices and attitudes of many politicians and conservative intellectuals have subverted cultural issues as a divisive political tool rather than as a tool for social integration and progress.
“Using cultural issues as a political tool has caused confusion among people over cultural values and perceptions,” he said.
Azizullah Iyma, poet and writer, believes that poorly constructed policies and inattention by government authorities to cultural issues have subjugated cultural values (such as religion and language) to a destructive role rather than having a constructive role in uniting people.
Iyma: “How can we expect to pay attention to
cultural issues in a country like Afghanistan where
its authorities mismanage the country and it is considered
to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world?"
“How can we expect to pay attention to cultural issues in a country like Afghanistan where its authorities mismanage the country and it is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world?” he asks.
Metra cites religion as a strong cultural element in Afghanistan. As Islam teaches peace and togetherness, so increasing people’s awareness about these Islamic values can play key role in moving forward a process for peaceful convergence.
“Another point that strengthens our vision of a united culture in Afghanistan is that Afghanistan is an Islamic country,” she said. “The majority of cultural norms and perceptions stem from religious ideologies. Islam is a religion that invites people to coexist and tolerate each other. So, by increasing people’s awareness about Islamic values, we can establish a peaceful coexistence among Afghan people.”
Mutaheri: “Cultural policy is not in the top of the
government’s working agenda."
Some cultural analysts assert that implementing sound cultural policies and preventing ethnic biases in government policies are needed to develop convergence.
“Cultural policy is not in the top of the government’s working agenda,” said Mehdi Mutaheri, a lecturer at the Ibn-e-Sina Institute of Higher Education in Kabul. “Wrangling over political power among the country’s power brokers will only change if we fight against it. Undoubtedly, the current political structure does not favor this. They don’t want progressive policies that could destroy the strategic arrangements of power which they themselves created.”
To this end, Rafee adds: “Implementing sound cultural policies by the government, ensuring justice and equal division of resources, increasing public awareness, and supporting the efforts of intellectuals involved in advancing the role of culture can all play key roles in uniting the Afghan people.”
- Peace talks on tap between Taliban, Afghanistan - CBS News
- 4 Americans killed at US base in Afghanistan; Taliban claim responsibility - Fortune
- US, Taliban to meet in Qatar for 'key milestone' toward ending Afghanistan war - NBCNews.com (blog)
- 4 US troops killed at Afghanistan air base - CBS News
- US Military Deaths in Afghanistan - New York Times
- Afghanistan peace talks: no surrender behind the Taliban's white flowers - The Guardian
- Is Peace and Stability Possible in Afghanistan ? - PBS NewsHour
- US to join direct peace talks in Qatar with Taliban over Afghanistan's future - The Guardian
- Taliban agree to peace talks with US over Afghanistan – full statement - The Guardian
- After Gunfire, Politicians in Afghanistan Trade Accusations - New York Times