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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Articles from IWPR Loya Jirga reporting project
Concern that Jihad Chieftains Will Set Political Agenda By Rahimullah Samander and Rahim Gul Sarwan in Kabul (ARR No. 88, 18-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting Former mujahedin leaders are set to heavily influence Afghanistan's future constitution after they were chosen to head five out of the ten working groups at the Loya Jirga that will now debate the constitution in detail. The dominant role given to the faction leaders has provoked fierce opposition from some delegates. The five are Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the powerful Jamiat-Islami party and former Afghan president; Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the leader of Ittihad-e-Islami; Ahmad Nabi Mohammadi, a leading figure in Harakat-e-Inqilab-Islami; Ustad Farid, a former commander in Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami; and lastly Mohammad Asef Muhsini, leader of Harakat-e-Islami – unlike the others a Shia group. Three of the five – Muhsini, Mohammadi and Farid – were among the 52 delegates selected by President Hamed Karzai, as opposed to the other 450 who were locally elected. Malalai Joya, a female delegate from Farah province, provoked uproar on Wednesday when she said that many of the former mujahedin were war criminals who should face trial. She specifically objected to the wartime leaders being spread out across many of the Loya Jirga working groups, saying "all these criminals" should all have been put in one group so as to limit their influence. Given the way the process is unfolding, the group leaders could exert powerful influence on the new constitution. The delegates have been divided into 10 groups of 50 or 51, each of which then chose a head. Each group will debate clauses of the constitution, and their conclusions will go to a separate committee made up of the 10 group leaders, who will collate their findings and formulate a final draft of the articles to be put to the full Loya Jirga. The assembly can then accept or refuse – but not amend – the draft presented by the group leaders. Some delegates fear that the system will allow the faction leaders to hijack the agenda. "I am opposed to these committees and groups, because all the jihadis [mujahedin leaders] stand at the top of the groups," Mohammad Ashraf, a delegate elected from Mazar-e-Sharif, told IWPR. "And they want to impose their beliefs on others." As with 2002's Emergency Loya Jirga which confirmed Karzai as president, the predominance of Afghanistan's wartime leaders is proving very controversial. When Joya spoke out on Wednesday she was fiercely criticised. Some delegates called her a communist and an atheist – serious accusations in conservative Muslim Afghanistan – and the Loya Jirga chairman Sibghatullah Mujaddidi tried to have her removed. Delegates who had talked freely before the argument later declined to speak to reporters. Critics say the mujahedin leaders are still so powerful that many delegates will be afraid to disagree with them in committee. Dr Farooq Wardak, head of the Constitutional Commission's secretariat, said his organisation had originally wanted to divide the 502 delegates into 10 groups in a random way. But Abdul Rasul Sayyaf had objected, saying delegates should be split in a planned way so as to achieve an equal distribution of professional expertise, provincial origin, gender and other criteria. "Those who know the constitution, the ulama [Islamic scholars], and the lawyers should be split into different groups so that the results of the discussion and debate will be positive, and closer to each other," said Sayyaf. As well as an elected head, each of the 10 groups has two secretaries, one chosen from among the 50 members of the group and another second from the Constitutional Commission. Another three commission members are assigned to each group to explain the legal and technical details of the draft document to the delegates. Wardak said the groups, which began work on Wednesday, would examine one chapter of the constitution every day. There are 12 chapters to the constitution. Rahimullah Samander and Rahim Gul Sarwan are participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
Hindus Fear Constitutional Rights Inadequate By Shahbuddin Terakhel in Kabul (ARR No. 88, 18-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting The draft constitution now being considered by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga is causing disquiet amongst the Hindu and Sikh community over what they see as its lack of protection for them as minority religious groups. Although what was once a large community has shrunk to just a few thousand, the remaining Hindu and Sikhs have tried to regain some of their rights since the end of the hardline Taliban regime, and have followed the development of a new constitution in the hope that it would enshrine tolerance towards local non-Muslims. "Article 3 talks only about respect for Islam, and does not mention other religions," said Cherang Singh, one of three Hindu and Sikh delegates at the gathering. He believes that the stipulation that the head of state must be Muslim is discriminatory. "We too are Afghans, and our fathers were Afghans, so why do we not have the right to run for president in future?" In the draft, Islam is proclaimed the state religion although religious minorities are given freedom of worship. There have been Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan for centuries, although numbers dwindled in recent years because of prolonged conflict as well as discrimination. Unfair treatment reached a peak under the Taleban, which instituted rules to make Hindus and Sikhs wear specially-marked clothes. Now that a new constitution is being debated, Sikh representative Otar Singh sees the lack of specific provisions for minority groups as a cause for concern, "In Article 17 they mention improvements to education, higher education and religious studies, mosques, religious schools and religious centres – but our temples are not mentioned. That is a clear example that our rights have not been borne in mind." The third Hindu/Sikh representative at the gathering, Anarkali Huner Yar, pointed to Article 35 which says that political parties cannot be contrary to the spirit of Islam. He argues that parties should not be against any religion in any case. Muslims who live as neighbours to Hindus in Kabul also expressed support for the rights of religious minorities, in the hope that relations might recover to as good a level as they were at in more peaceful days. Haji Sardar, 55, recalled, "We used to live a shared life with Hindus here, but due to the internal fighting in this country, they have grown distant from us. They should be given the same esteem as was paid to their fathers and forebears." Zainab, 45, who also lives next door to Hindus, remembers that in the time of President Najibullah – the communist leader deposed in 1992 – religious minorities enjoyed the full range of rights that other Afghans had. Now those rights should be restored, said Zainab, adding, "with the establishment of the Interim Administration in Afghanistan, Hindus' hopes to lead a new life grew. The constitution should not throw their aspirations in the river." For Royel Singh, a Sikh who has followed the Constitutional Loya Jirga on television, the main thing is to get on with approving the constitution. "I ask the authorities and the people's representatives not to waste time," he said. "When the constitution is approved, every countryman - whether Hindu or Muslim - can earnestly serve the country." Shahbuddin Terakhel is participating in the IWPR Loya Jirga reporting project.
Leading Female Delegate Denied Platform By Mustafa Basharat in Kabul (ARR No. 88, 18-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting The woman who came second place in presidential elections last year was this week barred from holding a press conference at the Loya Jirga, in which she planned to criticise the head of state. Dr Massouda Jalal, a Kabul psychiatrist and programme officer for the World Food Programme, tried to have a press conference on Monday, the second day of the Loya Jirga, to respond to President Hamed Karzai's opening speech. But officials told her she couldn't. Sultan Ahmad Bahin, press officer for Constitutional Loya Jirga, said Jalal, a delegate at the gathering, hadn't followed the rules by setting a time for the event with his office and not attempting to hold one while the assembly was in session. Jalal's husband, Faizullah Jalal, got into a shouting match with officials at the time, and one journalist who witnessed the encounter claimed that the couple had been treated rudely. Jalal herself, who normally appears good-natured and smiling, said, "There are some people in this country who rein in democracy. They want just enough so that their personal interests are restored - they don't want any more than that." She said she wanted to respond to Karzai's "exaggerations" of his accomplishments, and criticised the assembly's procedures, claiming delegates were not given enough chance to speak their minds. However, she told IWPR on Thursday night that the current work of the Loya Jirga, in ten committees, is much more conducive to discussion and she feels progress is being made. Jalal, 40, was born in Karpisa province to an educated family. Her father, Tela Mohammad, was head of a factory. She went to elementary school in Karpisa before moving to the capital, where she attended high school and then entered the medical faculty at Kabul University. She became a psychiatrist in 1989 and worked in psychiatry and pediatrics at various hospitals in Kabul. During the Taleban regime, she headed a women's programme for the United Nations, and began working as a health adviser for World Food Programme in 1998. Her husband is a teacher in the law faculty at Kabul University. They have three children, two girls and a boy. Throughout the civil wars and Taleban regime, Jalal never left Afghanistan or joined a political party. As a result, her sudden emergence as a presidential candidate at the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002 was quite a surprise. Her speech, outlining a programme for the nation, garnered a fair amount of national attention, but this failed to translate into votes. Undeterred, Jalal plans to nominate herself as a presidential candidate again in general elections planned for June 2004. Mustafa Basharat is participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
President's Powers Questioned By Qais Faqiri and Qayoum Babak in Kabul (ARR No. 86, 16-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai, says he will not contest the presidential elections due next year if the office is stripped of wide-ranging powers envisaged under the new constitution. The powers of the president have emerged as one of the main issues in the country's draft constitution currently being debated by the Loya Jirga. Those in favour of wide-ranging powers for the president say a strong presidency is necessary to hold the country together and give firm direction to government policy. But those campaigning against the proposals say the draft constitution hands too much power to the presidency – and that there is a danger that he might abuse his position and become a dictator. Under the draft constitution, the directly-elected president has the power to supervise the implementation of the constitution; determine the "fundamental policies of the state"; and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In addition, the president appoints ministers and members of the supreme court, with the approval of the lower house of the national assembly, the Wolesi Jirga. There is no position of prime minister under the draft, as there was in the 1964 constitution, apparently to prevent a second power-base developing under a premier. Abdul Hamid Mubariz, deputy culture minister in the interim government, said the president should be given strong powers under the constitution so that he could impose his authority in the government and the country. "The powers given to the president will not lead to dictatorship because if any violation of the law occurs, and two-thirds of representatives in the national assembly confirm it, they will call a Loya Jirga which will ask the president to explain himself," said Mubariz. He added that Afghanistan was no longer a closed society and that a free press would help guard against abuse of power by the president, and guarantee democracy. Musa Maroufi, a member of the constitutional commission, also rejected claims that there was a danger of the head of state becoming a dictator. "A country turns to dictatorship when the organisations which create democracy are not present, when there are no free elections, when political parties are not allowed, and where there is no free press in the country," said Maroufi. But, he added, Afghanistan would have these things. But Abdul Shakour Waqif Hakimi, head of the cultural office for Jamiat Islami and a delegate from Kabul to the Loya Jirga, said that the powers which would be handed to the president go too far. A strong Parliamentary system would be better for the Afghan people, he said. "The powers given to the president in this constitution turns the president into a dictator. If it is the president who decides the political orientation of the country; if it is the president who monitors the implementation of the constitution - then what is the parliament? Isn't the parliament just a hand-puppet of the president? And if judicial powers are assigned by the president, how can he claim to have an independent judiciary?" he said Fazil Karim, a lecturer in teacher-training at the higher education ministry in Kabul, said the new constitution was being foisted on the Afghanstan by the powerful, at home and abroad. This was not democratic nor was it for the benefit of the Afghan people. "We can call this constitution the `law of the lords' because it is being made according to the interests of the powerful, according to their wishes. They give more than enough power to the president, and they translate Islam for their own benefit and add it to the law," he said. "I do not believe that this constitution is made for the benefit of the people." Qais Faqiri and Qayoum Babak are participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
Uzbeks Want Their Language Official By Bashir Guakh and Hasina Sulaiman in Kabul (ARR No. 86, 16-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting The issue of language in Afghanistan is rearing its head at the Loya Jirga, as the debate on the draft constitution gets underway. Plans for the national anthem to be sung in Pashto only have already provoked controversy. And now Uzbek delegates are pressing their tongue the third official language in the constitution, after Pashto and Dari - but they are facing opposition. There are no recent official figures for the ethnic make-up of Afghanistan, but estimates say Pashtuns are at least 40 to 45 per cent, Dari-speaking Tajiks 25 per cent, Hazaras 10 to 19 per cent and Uzbeks six to eight per cent, with other groups making up the remainder of the population. Students at the Uzbek literature department at Kabul University are in no doubt that Uzbek should be recognised. Abdul Hamid Sherzad said it should replace Pashto as an official language. "The Pashto language is not rich and does not have a long history," he claimed. Another student, Abdul Momen, said, "We don't want official billboards and government and administrative documents in the Uzbek language, but the prejudice that Pashtuns showed us under the Taleban oblige us to call for our language to be made official." But Uzbek campaigners are meeting with stiff resistance from other ethnic and language groups, who say too many official languages would be confusing, unworkable and would endanger national unity. The chief editor of Brekhna Magazine Masjidi Malyar said Uzbeks should drop their claims to have an official language, and concentrate instead on the more important issues facing the country. "When the formalisation of two languages have brought up so many problems, what will happen if we create three official languages?" he said. And the deputy of the information and culture ministry, Abdul Hameed Mubariz said, "Anyone wanting to make Uzbeki official are only fanning prejudices." The former chairman of the Afghanistan Youth Centre, Dr Khaled Hemmat, said that Pashto did have a rich history which went back thousands of years. "Pashto should be recognised as both the official and national language of Afghanistan - and if other people are making claims for their language then Arabic, the language of the Quran and Hadith, should be recognised as official," he said. Some blame Afghanistan's neighbours for inflaming the language controversy. A former member of the country's science academy, Sabz Ali Talimyar told IWPR, "As Afghanistan is heading towards peace and tranquillity, neighbouring countries have again begun their efforts to create disorder in our country by interfering in the controversial issue of language." Bashir Guakh and Hasina Sulaiman are participating in IWPR's Loya Jirga reporting project.
Outspoken Joya in Defiant Mood; Malalai Joya By Rahimullah Samander in Kabul (ARR No. 91, 23-Dec-03) Institute for War & Peace Reporting Loya Jirga delegate Malalai Joya, who caused a furore with her criticisms of jihadi leaders, says even the threat of death won't keep her from speaking the truth. In telephone interviews with IWPR Monday night and Tuesday [yesterday], 25-year-old Joya said she's been told by the Loya Jirga authorities that if she repeats her remarks she'll be expelled. On Tuesday morning when she attempted to speak to a group of reporters, Joya was stopped by Qayamuddin Kashaf, deputy chairman of the grand assembly, who told her she doesn't have permission to speak to reporters any more. But Joya has no regrets about her words and says she'll continue to speak out. "I said the facts; I defend it and I reckon that this is my proven right," she said. "Even if it costs my life I will defend my speech." Joya, who represents Farah province in western Afghanistan, is one of the youngest of the 502 delegates to the Loya Jirga. After she made a speech last week calling jihadi leaders "criminals" who "destroyed the country" and said they should be put on trial, she was accused of being a communist and was nearly expelled from the gathering Joya said she considers herself "a Muslim, a person who has suffered, and the delegate of a distressed nation". She was born and raised in Farah, and graduated from high school. She says she chose not to go to university because she wanted to help other Afghans with their primary and secondary education. But she has studied literature, political science and history in her free time, and hopes some day to study literature at university. During the Taleban regime, Joya, who is unmarried, worked for four years in Herat and Peshawar refugee camps, helping Afghans who had fled fighting and drought. In the past year, she has continued to do social work, distributing food and medicine, and setting up literacy courses in Farah province. She now works for a charity there, and runs literacy courses, a health clinic and a day care centre for children. Her father had studied medicine and became mujahed, losing a leg in the fighting against the Soviet Union. Her mother, who is uneducated, suffers from depression due to the severity of her life, said Joya. She has three brothers and seven sisters. She told IWPR that she was trying to make three points in her speech, "First, these warlords should have been tried, and if found innocent then they could come to the Jirga. Second, the composition of the Loya Jirga is not appropriate - all jihadi and powerful people have come. And third, the environment is not democratic." Although Joya spoke for less than two minutes, her speech caused some jihadi delegates to leap to their feet, shouting "Death to communism" and "Alloa Akbar [God is great]". Loya Jirga chairman Sibghatullah Mujadidi at first tried to remove Joya from the assembly, but backed down when other delegates objected. Joya was then asked to apologise, but she stood her ground and would not retract her accusations. She says that inside the Loya Jirga hall many women had the same ideas as she did, and they wanted to leave in support of her, but they did not because "fear, power and [men who control] guns were dominant". Joya said the draft constitution is unclear and much too vague about women's rights, and that it doesn't directly address their problems. She is also advocating that higher education should remain free, and that the national anthem should be rewritten to include many languages in a kind of poem promoting national unity. She was originally assigned to the committee headed by Burharudin Rabbani, former president in the mujahedin era, but asked to be reassigned to one with a "democratic person who believes in equal rights" as the chair. In this group, she said, she has been able to speak freely. She denied the claims that she has been a member of a radical women's organisation or any political party. It's not only radical or political groups that are brave or want to accuse former jihadi leaders of crimes, she said. "Not one Afghan woman has gone without suffering," she said. Joya is one of the two female delegates from Farah province. She got 48 out of 135 women's votes, coming first among eight candidates. She wants to write books about her people and society. She's been keeping notes about her experiences and the stories of ordinary Afghans she has met. Some think so highly of Joya that they want to call her the "Second Malalai". Malalai is a famous 19th century Afghan woman who is credited with turning the tide in the battle of Maiwand, against the British. When the morning of the battle began with numerous Afghan casualties and many surrendering or running away, Malalai took up a sword to fight the British herself, singing an Afghan song, and inspired her countrymen to keep fighting. The title makes Joya happy. "All of my family is proud of me and agrees with me – but my mother is worried about me," she told IWPR. She says that other Malalais in Afghanistan want to speak out, but they've been stopped by threats. Joya hopes that hearing her words will encourage others to raise their voices. Joya's foes, however, believe that her remarks were an offense to Islam and jihad. Some have called her an atheist for saying anything bad about jihadis. Joya had been staying in the women's dorm at the Polytechnic, but she's now staying in the city in an undisclosed location with extra protection from private security and Afghan forces. She thanked Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, Interior Minister Ali Jalali and US ambassador Zalmi Khalil Zad for taking steps to ensure her security. All three men, she said, told her that they admired her courage. And all three assured her that the freedom of speech is the right of all Afghans. Rahimullah Samander is an IWPR editor/reporter in Kabul.
Forced Marriage Ban Possible
By Haseena Sulaiman and Lailuma Saded in Kabul
(ARR No. 87, 17-Dec-03)
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
The practice of forced marriage, which forces many women to run away
from home and risk imprisonment, could be outlawed if certain
provisions of the new draft constitution are accepted at the Loya Jirga.
Article 54 of the draft constitution says the state will take steps to
eliminate "traditions contrary to the principles of the sacred
religion of Islam", according to which a woman's consent is required
for a marriage to be legal.
Marriages are forced on women in Afghanistan for a number of reasons:
young and beautiful girls are sold off at a good price; parents
sometimes get their daughters married to avoid the expense of caring
for them; widows may be compelled to marry the brother of their
deceased husband; and sisters must sometimes pay for the crimes of
their brothers by marrying their victims.
Article 26 could stop the latter, as it specifies that only the
criminal should pay for his actions.
Rana Hamidzada, head of the women's prison in Kabul, said she was
happy to see these articles in the draft constitution - she has had
many prisoners who were deemed criminals because they ran away from
Islamic and civil law rules that, under certain circumstances,
abandoning one's family is a crime. But a women who chooses to leave
home rather than being forced into a marriage can risk more than
imprisonment. In numerous cases, they have tracked by their families
and killed for dishonouring them.
Hamidzada, who has a master's degree in criminology and has worked at
police headquarters for much of the last 12 years, said that about 30
per cent of the cases of women arrested since the interim
administration are linked to forced marriages.
She tells the story of a typical case - Pari Gul, a 15-year-old girl,
who was married to an older, mute man because he gave her father a lot
of money. Pari Gul finally escaped from her husband's house in Ghazni
and secretly married another man. Her father informed the police and
they arrested her.
Judge Fozia Amin, deputy chief of women's rights in the women's
affairs ministry, cites a current case of a 10-year-old girl who was
married off to a man who already had two wives.
The girl escaped to her parents' house after being beaten by her
husband so badly that she had psychological problems and her legs were
damaged. "Though she was 10-years-old, she looked like an old woman,"
Amin told IWPR. Her office convinced the girl's husband to let her go
back to her parents.
Shaima Muheb, another investigator who deals with cases of women
running away from home, estimates that 50 per cent of marriages in
Afghanistan are compulsory, in violation of religious law. "From
Islamic Shariat's point of view, not only young girls but even widows
should give approval for their marriage," she said.
Mohammed Zarif Azhar, a law faculty instructor at Kabul University,
agreed, "The esteemed prophet Hazrat Mohammed gave this right to
Hazrat Zainab [his daughter]. We call Hazrat Zainab by the name
Independent Zainab because she was given independence in getting married."
Hasina Sulaiman and Lailuma Saded are participating in IWPR's Loya
Jirga reporting project.
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.