On Friday, September 16th, the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society at Baylor University and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame convened an exceptional panel moderated by RFI Senior Fellow Charles Ramsey.
The guest speakers were Mohammad Qasim Wafayezada, former Minister of Information and Culture for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Professor of International Relations at Kanazawa University, Japan; Aref Dostyar, former Consul General of Afghanistan to the Western United States and Senior Advisor at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; and Palwasha Kakar, former head of the Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University and Interim Director for Religion and Inclusive Societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Each of the speakers lamented the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. For example, Wafayezada described Afghanistan as “in the grip of the darkest forces in the region.” Panelists also discussed the weak Afghan leadership that inhibited the country’s capacity to resist Taliban aggression and criticized the U.S. government, in part, for signing the Doha Agreement with the Taliban in 2020 to bring an end to 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Wafayezada went so far as to call it a “pact with the devil.”
Afghanistan is home to 55 ethnic groups and 45 languages. However, since the Taliban took over the country, Afghanistan has begun to lose its cultural diversity. Wafayezada said, “the Taliban is imposing a cultural monopoly by continued discrimination against minority groups.” Hazaras, Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Uzbeks have also been particularly afflicted by the Taliban regime.
The panelists described a number of changes that had taken place in their country, especially in areas of widespread social repression and exclusion of women and girls. Girls are banned from getting an education after sixth grade, women are no longer allowed to appear as news anchors on television, women are banned from going to parks, the Taliban have stopped issuing driver’s licenses to women, and imams are required to provide to Taliban officials lists of unmarried women who are then abducted and forced into marriage. When asked about the healthcare system in Afghanistan, the speakers said there were not nearly enough female doctors to perform necessary duties.
The spread of political violence, to include unjustified arrests and detention, have targeted journalists and other high-profile figures. Making matters worse, the Taliban regime has banned freedom of expression while failing to mobilize state institutions to perform basic functions.
Currently, the international community seems be focused solely on counter-terrorism, resettlement of Afghan refugees, and humanitarian support. These are all important and urgent, but more action is needed to help Afghanistan avoid the resumption of armed conflict. Delivering aid will not by itself provide stability. Now is a time for international and domestic dialogue that aims to prevent further escalation of Taliban repression.
While all three speakers united around their lament of the dire conditions their people are enduring at the hands of the Taliban regime, they still expressed hope for the prospect of an Afghan future free of Taliban rule.
Watch the full panel discussion: “Afghanistan: The Next Chapter.”