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The Afghans’ Eyes, Hopes and Hearts for Peace in Doha

By Dr. Matin Royeen

As the Afghan peace and reconciliation process between the Taliban and the Afghan Government enters a new phase of substantial discussions, both the Afghan people and their international counterparts are eagerly waiting for an end to violence and war.  This difficult journey of peace and reconciliation will take time and hard work on the part of the participants to achieve the desired goal.  In the meantime, we offer our best wishes to each participant in this historic moment of peace making.  I sincerely hope that both parties will reenter the peace negotiations in good faith with renewed energy and commitment after their break.

In order to achieve peace, the participants engage in the reconciliation process which entail PeaceMaking, PeaceKeeping and PeaceBuilding.  Before discussing the meaning of these three important ingredients of peace, I would like to discuss the meaning of reconciliation. 

Reconciliation:  The dictionary definition of reconciliation implies the restoration of peaceful or amicable relations between two individuals/parties who were previously involved in conflict with each other.  If not resolved, conflicts could lead to violence.  According to Lederach, violent conflicts affect individuals, communities and leadership in the government.  Violent conflicts destroy human relationships, impose injustice and destroy human livelihood.    In the context of peace building, reconciliation requires truth, justice, forgiveness and accommodation between the conflicting groups. 

The Doha Reconciliation Process:  In my view,  the Doha reconciliation process requires a fundamental  transformation in attitudes, behaviors and perceptions of the two opposing sides to the conflict.  Such a transformation is a prerequisite on how to move away from the crisis mode to positive engagement.  Four dimensions of transformation will be discussed here:

Personal Transformation requires individuals to re-examine their own biased feelings towards the other (enemy) with whom they are sitting together and are engaging in face to face communication.  Such an emotional, spiritual and cognitive perceptual shift towards the enemy and unconditional commitment towards the peace process are important.  An important requirement for such a transformation is the ability of the peace negotiators to exercise free will by making independent decisions without control/micromanagement of any governmental or other entities.

Relational Transformation:  It is important to repair and restore the damaged relationships caused by the violent conflict.  Promoting mutual understanding will build confidence in the relationship between the negotiators.

Structural Transformation:  The peace negotiators need to examine the root causes of political and economic conditions that have evolved into conflict.  It is important for negotiators to consider the greater good in favor of personal/institutional political interests

and power.  Those in the center of power and influence on both sides of the conflict should be willing to make political sacrifices on behalf of peace and reconciliation.

Cultural Transformation:  It is important for the peace negotiators to examine the conflicting belief systems, values, customs and the role of religion in their country.   Afghanistan is an Islamic society and achieving a consensus regarding the role of Islam  that could promote social justice and protect human rights could be mutually beneficial.

Peacekeeping:  Is the military or police (third party with authority) that attempts to stop violence between/among parties to a conflict through strength and force.  The parties have not come to terms with peace and they are simply kept apart by the third party intervention so they are not fighting any longer.  Peacekeeping started at the United Nations in 1948.  As of  June of 2020, there were Ninety five thousand United Nations Peacekeeping forces, representing 121 countries around the world.

Peacemaking: is the use of third party intervention using discussions/communication, conflict  resolution and mediation strategies in order to achieve an accord, truce or treaty. The parties do not put their weapons down, but simply are involved in some form of ceasefire. In the political context, usually diplomats are involved in this situation.

Peacebuilding:  Is the third party intervention, trying to help the two former enemies come together by recognizing their differences, accepting each other towards building their nation and achieving a sustainable peace.

The following transformational steps are important for success of the Doha peace negotiations:

 All parties must stop demonization of each other.  The use of professional and peaceful language is important as the two enemies sit together to make peace. Engaging in constructive dialogue will create a positive change in attitude that hopefully will result in a positive transformation towards effective communication. 

All parties must make a commitment towards the humanization of the reconciliation process.  It is important for the Taliban and Afghan representatives to view each other as human beings, belonging to the same country and who have suffered together as a result of this violent conflict.  This transformation will build some degree of confidence as the two parties to the conflict will acknowledge that there “ should be no joy in the suffering of the other.”

Developing empathy will result in harmony:  The face to face encounter can build rapport among the peace negotiators whose relationships have been fractured by the trauma of the past conflict.  As a result of deeper engagements, the negotiators’ level of trust will create some degree of empathy where the two former enemies would feel “the suffering of the other as his/her own.”  This is the most critical period of achieving peace through empathy.  Psychologists Goleman and Ekman have identified three types of empathy; cognitive (understanding the feeling of the other), emotional empathy (share the feelings of the other) and compassionate (taking positive action towards the other. 

Establishing a Ceasefire is imperative in order to move the Afghan nation towards peacebuilding.  Without a ceasefire, it will not be possible to forge an agreement on political, economic, social, structural and the cultural dimensions of this violent conflict that have destroyed this beautiful country.

Practicing the very essence of Islamic principles towards peace and reconciliation in the country.  I hope both the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban will use these beautiful simple words as their deeds; “Paradise is for…those who curb their anger and forgive their fellow men.”  (Quran 3:134). 

Dr. Matin Royeen Ph.D is an Afghan American educator in the USA.  He can be reached at:  [email protected]

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