AAN political researcher Gran Hewad attended this week’s opening event of the ‘National Campaign on Supporting Justice in Afghanistan’. He visited the tents, watched the audience and reminisces about the war and the chances of establishing justice.
The ‘National Campaign on Supporting Justice in Afghanistan’ is the title of a six day open gathering taking place on Nadir Khan Hill in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul. It is an initiative of Saba Media Organization – which runs TV and radio stations and has newspapers and a print house – and more than twenty human rights organizations, including the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. One organiser told AAN: “The campaign will be going on across the country from 28th July until 4th August. This could be an initiative which leads the nation on a future path to justice.” But he didn’t explain what the future plans were or how this would lead the country to justice.
The majority of the more than the 200 participants were human rights and civil society activists. They were walking around the grounds where tents had been put up and were watching the ongoing activities.
This was a novel event for Afghanistan, with six tents hosting different gatherings. In the first tent, there was a press conference announcing the beginning of the campaign and welcoming the guests. A small audience was listening to the speakers. The second tent had a round table of activists, discussing what justice means. They looked at women rights, possible abuses of the law, justice in the case of a peace deal with insurgents, and the Amnesty Law – which gives immunity to alleged war criminals. “According to protocols the amnesty law is a law”, argued Shukria Barakzai, an MP from Kabul. “However, it is not something that should or could ever be implemented because it is against Sharia law and the constitution.”
The third tent was the fullest. There a noisy gathering of women who (less carefully) listened and watched television and audio accounts of atrocities recounted by victims of the war. Meanwhile, people could also get cool beverages there. In the fourth tent about 20 children from Aschiana, a shelter for orphans and street children, sat down on rug, drawing pictures which were then hung on the sides of the tent. In the fifth and sixth camps, there were stalls stacked with human rights publications that were being given away for free to visitors.
All this took place just 100 meters away from the mausoleums of the Father of the Nation (former King Zaher Shah) and his father (Grandfather of the Nation, Nader Shah). This is not just a place for the dead, but also a place that has been a source of death: it was one of the hills where artillery emplacements launched rockets into the capital during the civil war – a conflict which left a third of Kabul in ruins. While the discussion ranged from crimes of war to more recent abuses, many of the people gathered there were victims of this four year long internecine battle for Kabul.
Nevertheless, it was a relaxed start to the six day event. People strolled around looking in at the different tents, talking, listening and enjoying their Colas and other cold drinks.
Then the close, cloudy weather of the Kabul summer gave way to a suddenkhakbaad (dust storm) and the strong dusty wind destroyed the tent of the children. The children’s pictures blew away into oblivion. That demolishing wind – which disturbed the innocent children struggling to achieve their minimum rights – seemed like the only message that could be given to the campaign, in Kabul’s heartless political atmosphere. But it was funny for the children. They were laughing at the wind and the demolishing of their tent, which was in fact their home. The incident was meaningless for them, just fun.
This was a new type of event in Afghanistan and a lot of work has been put into launching the campaign. However, if it succeeds in moving the government – which has always shown itself unwilling to act on the serious subject of injustice – it will be a miracle. Looking around at the justice camp, I felt like a member of the audience at a circus, watching a small, sick insect trying to move a tired, sleeping elephant.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020